New Brunswick

Alward wins N.B. Tory leadership

Woodstock MLA David Alward is the new leader of the Progressive Conservative party of New Brunswick, defeating Sussex businessman Robert MacLeod.

Woodstock MLA David Alward is the new leader of the Progressive Conservative party of New Brunswick, defeating Sussex businessman Robert MacLeod.

The former provincial agriculture minister triumphed on Saturday afternoon by a margin of 509 votes with 2,269 votes to MacLeod's 1,760.

An emotional Alward invited his family, MacLeod and other elected officials on stage as he accepted the new position to lead the opposition Conservatives.

"I'm scared to death," Alward said moments after his victory was revealed.

Alward is replacing former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, who stepped down shortly after losing the 2006 election. Veteran MLA Jeannot Volpe has served as the interim leader since January 2007.

The new party leader is already looking forward to his first test, the Nov. 3 byelection in New Maryland-Sunbury West. But Alward told the gathered partisans that they must unify and present a strong vision for New Brunswick in the 2010 election.

"We are going to continue to reach out to New Brunswickers and they are going to reach back to us," Alward said.

During his speech earlier in the day, Alward underscored the importance of bringing the party together after the vote so it can take on a common foe, Liberal Premier Shawn Graham.

Alward earned some of his most boisterous applause when he praised the federal Conservatives for doubling their New Brunswick caucus to six out of 10 ridings. The new provincial Conservative leader said Graham is just as culpable as federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion for the losses and it is time for the party to replicate Prime Minister Stephen Harper's gains.

"It's time for Shawn Dion to be gone," Alward said.

There were more than 6,100 delegates registered to vote on Saturday. The official party numbers show 4,033 members actually cast ballots.

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