Brian Macdonald launches Progressive Conservative leadership bid

Brian Macdonald is the first declared candidate for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party.

Fredericton West-Hanwell Tory MLA becomes first declared candidate in race to succeed ex-leader David Alward

Fredericton West-Hanwell PC MLA Brian Macdonald launched his leadership bid on Thursday. (CBC)

Brian Macdonald is the first declared candidate for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party.

The two-term Fredericton West-Hanwell MLA launched his campaign at the Fredericton Playhouse in front of roughly 60 supporters on Thursday morning.

Macdonald said he wants to fight for lower taxes and resource development if he is elected as the party's next leader.

"My combined energy and experience make me the right person for the job, to fight for lower taxes and promote resource development, and I know that with strong leadership, our PC party will come back to government by offering New Brunswick voters a solid alternative to the Gallant Liberals in the next election," Macdonald said in a statement.

Many prominent Conservatives were on hand for the launch, including former defence minister Peter MacKay.

Macdonald used to work for MacKay as a senior policy adviser when the former Nova Scotia MP was the defence minister.

Macdonald also has the endorsement of former Speaker of the Senate Noel Kinsella.

The party has not set a date for a leadership convention to replace former premier David Alward, who stepped aside after the Tories lost the 2014 provincial election.

Macdonald is the first in the race, but several other prominent Tories are still considering their own leadership bids.

The roster of potential leadership contestants includes Rothesay MLA Ted Flemming, Southwest Miramichi MLA Jake Stewart, Saint John Mayor Mel Norton and former Tobique-Mactaquac MP Mike Allen.

Duality, abortion issues tackled

The leadership contender took positions on two contentious issues when asked by reporters after his campaign launch.

Several PC MLAs have called for restoring the old rules surrounding abortion coverage. The old rules required women who were seeking a hospital abortion to have two doctors certify it as medically necessary.

The Gallant government changed the rule in November 2014.

"We have a system in place that works quite well," he said.

Macdonald said if is elected premier, he would not bring back the old rule.

"I don't have any intention to change the system as it exists. It exists now and it's functioning. Medical procedures are determined by medical practitioners, by doctors, and that's where I think it should rest," he said.

The PC MLA also called bilingualism and biculturalism a "fundamental principle" in New Brunswick and he believes that does not need to change.

Last year, Macdonald tweeted about the controversial dual-busing system, saying that "scarce education resources should go to better schools and teachers, not a second set of buses."

On Thursday, he said he would await the New Brunswick Court of Appeal ruling on that issue, but he supports bilingualism and duality.

"We have a system in place and we have to find savings in our current system," he said.

"We don't need to change the system. We need to find savings in the system."