Brian Gallant spurns calls for more Liberal debates

Liberal leadership candidate Brian Gallant is downplaying the need for any more than the seven planned party debates before the Oct. 27 leadership convention.

Liberal leadership candidates agreed to 7 party-sponsored debates

Supporters of Liberal leadership candidate Michael Murphy, left, have called for Brian Gallant to agree to more debates.

Liberal leadership candidate Brian Gallant is dismissing calls, primarily from his rivals’ supporters, to add more debates before the party’s Oct. 27 convention.

The New Brunswick Liberal Association planned seven forums across the province, where the three leadership candidates could outline their visions for the party.

Some supporters, particularly of former health minister Michael Murphy, are using social media to accuse Gallant of being afraid to debate.

Gallant, a Moncton-area lawyer, said the seven party-sponsored events should be enough.

"I can't see why we'd want to take away from the six forums that are left that the party is organizing," he said.

Gallant said the party has worked hard to make sure as many Liberals as possible can attend these debates.

"They're all across the province, they're in both official languages, the party and all the candidates agreed to them. So I think that's more than enough, to be honest," he said.

Gallant said he's not hearing the demand for more debates from Liberals he meets across New Brunswick.

He said he is busy signing up new members leading up to the Sept. 26 deadline.

After that, he said he might consider additional debates or forums with his rivals.

Murphy's campaign said its supporters on social media don't speak for the candidate on the issue of adding extra debates to the schedule.

A spokesperson said Murphy isn't asking for more debates. But he said the former health minister would be willing to attend any new debates as long as they are not organized by "single-issue" groups.

Gallant, Murphy and Nick Duivenvoorden, a former mayor of Belledune, are the three candidates in the party's leadership race.

‘Candidate reps seemed satisified’

Despite the recent debate over the number of forums, the party’s president said it was not an issue earlier in the leadership campaign.

Britt Dysart, the president of the Liberal party, said all campaigns agreed to the seven party-sponsored forums.

"The candidate reps seemed satisfied with the formats and seemed satisfied with the dates of the forum."

The discussion over debates is adding an element of division within the Liberal party just as a new poll suggests the gap between them and the Progressive Conservatives is narrowing.

Corporate Research Associates released a poll on Thursday showing the Progressive Conservatives were the top choice of 38 per cent of decided voters followed by 32 per cent for the Liberals.

The New Democratic Party was in third place with 24 per cent.

The number of undecided voters is 44 per cent.

Corporate Research Associates polled 400 New Brunswickers between Aug. 14 and 31. The margin of error is 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.