Brian Gallant moves up departure from helm of Liberal Party
Former premier says he'll step down at next caucus meeting, likely in February
Former premier Brian Gallant says he'll step down as leader of the Liberal Party earlier than planned.
Gallant said Friday that he will resign at the party's next caucus meeting, which is scheduled for mid-February, rather than wait until a leadership convention can choose his successor.
"It has become clear that while I still occupy the role of leader, many will be hopeful — and some will be fearful — that I might run again in the next election," Gallant told a news conference in Moncton.
"Let me be clear I am not running again in the next election as leader of the Liberal Party or to be the MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe."
Gallant wasn't pressured, MLA says
Discussions are underway on whether the next caucus meeting should be held sooner than mid-February, said caucus chair Jean-Claude D'Amours.
Gallant made the decision to quit on his own and not under pressure, D'Amours said.
"I really respect his decision to decide to not be the leader of the Liberal Party," he said.
An interim leader will be chosen at the next caucus meeting as well, but D'Amours hopes party members can elect a new leader as soon as possible. A steering committee of the party will choose a date for the leadership convention, which is to be held in Saint John, he said.
Resignation already announced
Gallant, who tried to form a minority government after the Sept. 24 election, had already announced his intention to resign when his government was defeated in the legislature and the Progressive Conservatives took over.
At the time, Gallant said he would stay on as leader until the party found his successor, which it hasn't done. On Friday, he suggested that by leaving earlier, he would be nudging the party into getting a new leader more quickly.
"My hope is that by doing this the Liberal Party will recognize that it indeed needs to choose a new leader and in a time frame that makes sense for the party," Gallant said.
He also suggested there is some urgency because Premier Blaine Higgs, who has the support of three People's Alliance members, is governing "like he has a majority."
"He has given the People's Alliance all the cards and therefore control of the government's agenda."
As a result, Gallant said, the PC government might fall over its first budget, which is to be presented after the legislature reconvenes on March 19.
Gallant said he will stay on as MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe for now but wouldn't say if he would stay until the next election.
He said he will stay neutral on who should be the next Liberal leader.
He became Liberal leader in 2012 and won a majority government two years later, defeating David Alward's Progressive Conservatives.
Gallant said he has no interest in running at any other level of government.
At the news conference Friday, Gallant thanked New Brunswickers for the opportunity to serve the province. He said he and his wife will continue to contribute to the betterment of the province, but in other ways.
He has "no plans at the moment."
Later Friday, Higgs wished Gallant "the very best" in his future endeavours.
He said he didn't know what to make of Gallant's allegation he was running the province as if he had a majority.