New Brunswick Liberal leader Brian Gallant has announced he will run in the Kent byelection to replace former premier Shawn Graham, who resigned last Friday.

Gallant said last week he was unsure whether he would contest the seat when a by-election is called but he has decided it's the best course for him as leader.

'They've spent weeks and months taunting and teasing about the fact that I haven't been in the legislative assembly, so if they think that it's that important, I'm sure that they are going to call the byelection as soon as they can.'—Liberal Leader Brian Gallant

"I look forward to gaining the confidence of the people of Kent to elect me as their MLA … and to keep government accountable," said Gallant at a press conference.

Graham's resignation is effective on March 11. Once the seat is vacant, Premier David Alward has six months to call a byelection.

"I only assume they will call the byelection as soon as possible. They've spent weeks and months taunting and teasing about the fact that I haven't been in the legislative assembly, so if they think that it's that important, I'm sure that they are going to call the byelection as soon as they can so I can be there as soon as I can," said Gallant.

The Liberal leader has been using his time since he won the leadership trying to rebuild the party. But Gallant said he understands there will be some advantages for him to run in the byelection.

Boundaries redrawn

Premier David Alward is the only official party leader to have a seat in the legislature.

Green Party Leader David Coon, who was elected last fall, announced Monday he will not be running in the byelection.

He said his party will decide later whether they will field a candidate.

"I'm too busy trying to run the party and get us ready for the general election. It's only 18 months away and we've got lots of work to do to be ready," said Coon.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy placed third in the Rothesay byelection.

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin placed third in the riding of Grand Lake-Gagetown in the 2010 provincial election.

Before winning the Liberal party’s leadership, Gallant practised law in the Moncton-area. He was born in Shediac Bridge, which is in the Kent South riding.

The upcoming byelection will be significant because it will be the last time people in Kent vote in the riding under its current boundaries.

An independent commission has suggested redrawing the boundaries and splitting the communities into two different ridings.

There are currently three ridings covering communities in Kent County, but the proposed map has recommended redrawing the boundaries so there would be a Kent South and a Kent North riding.

Political fallout

Graham resigned on Friday, four days after retired Justice Patrick Ryan, the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner, filed his long-awaited report into how Graham handled the awarding of $50 million in loan guarantees to the Miramichi-based Atcon.

Ryan ruled Graham had been in a conflict and said he should be fined $3,500.

Gallant said on Monday the Liberal party's image has taken a hit from the Atcon affair and conflict-of-interest ruling against Graham.

"I’m not going to lie to you, there is no doubt that it hurts the brand. I understand that, and I think all of the caucus understands that and I think Mr. Graham understands that," Gallant said.

"What I hope though people will realize this is a party that's been around a very long time, and is going to be around for a very long time. We have learned from that mistake."

Gallant said he understands why New Brunswickers would be frustrated and said he's committed to doing things differently.