New Brunswick

Brian Gallant plans to resign as Liberal leader

Former New Brunswick premier Brian Gallant plans to resign as Liberal leader on Thursday, almost two weeks after his government lost a confidence vote in the legislature.

Former New Brunswick premier tells caucus members he's decided to quit

Former New Brunswick premier Brian Gallant has told caucus members he will announce his resignation Thursday as leader of the provincial Liberal Party. (Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada)

Brian Gallant plans to resign as New Brunswick Liberal leader.

Moncton East MLA Monique LeBlanc confirmed to Radio-Canada that Gallant told the caucus of his plans Wednesday afternoon.

"I have to admit I was a little sad," LeBlanc said. "I went into politics because of Brian. … We had four great years. I'm proud of the work we did."

Gallant will make the announcement to reporters at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

His decision comes in the wake of an election campaign in which the party was reduced to just 21 seats in the 49-member legislature. Gallant's government lost a confidence vote on Nov. 2 and the Progressive Conservatives were sworn into power last week.

Gallant's departure means the party must organize a leadership campaign quickly. With a minority PC government in power, an election could be triggered unexpectedly.

I think that the electorate wasn't convinced that our party was taking the financial situation seriously.- Susan Holt, unsuccessful Liberal candidate

Some Liberals have already signalled their interest in running for the leadership, with two of them saying the party needs a new direction.

Saint John-Rothesay Liberal MP Wayne Long and former provincial Liberal candidate Susan Holt both say Gallant's re-election campaign was hurt by a blitz of pre-writ government spending announcements, and a similar wave of campaign promises.

"The more and more good work we did and the more and more announcements we did, it seemed like the more and more people pushed away from that and viewed it very, very skeptically and with cynicism," Long said.

Sent mixed messages

He said the party needs a centrist message that supports spending on child care and education, "but we also have to make sure we're fiscally responsible."

Holt said that despite successive lower deficits in each year of the Liberal mandate, spending promises during the campaign made it appear the party was not committed to balancing the budget.

Susan Holt, who ran for the Liberals in September election, says she found the party's message cynical and negative. (CBC)

"I think that the electorate wasn't convinced that our party was taking the financial situation seriously," she said. "There was a sense we weren't serious about debt reduction, and I think we could have done a better job communicating our seriousness about the debt."

She also said she disliked the negative tone of the campaign, including Liberal advertising that attacked Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs, who is now the premier.

Party could be 'less negative'

"I think we could have been more positive and maybe less cynical in the campaign," she said. "Maybe by positive, I mean less negative."

Wayne Long, the Saint John-Rothesay MP, says the party's provincial election campaign was hurt by too many spending promises. (CBC)

Long said ahead of news of Gallant's announcement that he would not run for the leadership if the race began before next year's federal election, when he plans to run for a second term as MP.

Holt said she's merely responding to Liberals calling her to urge her to think about it.

"I'm not going to rush into a 'yes' if it doesn't feel like a 'yes.'"

Gallant admitted he was 'jaded'

In his closing speech before the confidence vote Nov. 2 and again at a news conference later that day and in opinion articles in newspapers, Gallant apologized for not doing a better job as premier.

He acknowledged that he won the leadership promising "a new approach" but became "too jaded and fell into some of the old adversarial ways of this place."

Premier Brian Gallant delivers his speech at the closure of the throne speech debate on Nov. 2. Gallant's Liberal government was defeated and the party leader will now resign from the post. (James West/Canadian Press)

He said the election result was a wake-up call and he would try to be more collaborative "no matter which position I'll be occupying."

Long and Holt are just two names circulating among Liberals as potential leadership candidates.

Liberal MLAs Roger Melanson and Benoî​​t Bourque, also seen as possible candidates, did not respond to interview requests Wednesday.

Mayor not interested

Former MLA Donald Arseneault said he had "no immediate plans as I am enjoying living in Fredericton and Ottawa and looking at politics from a different perspective."

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold confirmed she has been approached.

"Yes, it has come up," she said in an email. "However, I am fully committed to the City of Moncton and continuing to move our city forward."

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor didn't respond to a request for comment on whether she'd jump into provincial politics.