Former NDP leader Dominic Cardy joins PCs as strategic issues director
Tory Leader Blaine Higgs says he and Cardy are 'directly aligned' on many issues
Less than a month after resigning as leader of the New Brunswick NDP, Dominic Cardy has joined the Progressive Conservative Party and will work for leader Blaine Higgs as an adviser.
Higgs says he and Cardy agree on the need to address New Brunswick's dire fiscal situation, including a deficit projected at $231 million this year.
"We are directly aligned on so many issues," Higgs told reporters Friday morning as Cardy looked on. "It makes sense for us to pull together and put goals forward collectively."
Cardy's switch is a coup for the PC leader, who took over the position after a leadership convention last October.
While Cardy preached moderation and fiscal prudence as NDP leader, he is pro-choice on abortion. Higgs, however, argued passionately against the Gallant government's repeal of restrictions on access to the procedure in hospitals.
Cardy also supports a law to give workers who unionize the right to a first contract — a policy the PCs have never embraced.
Cardy said he had to reconcile himself to "pretty enormous disagreements" with many tenets of NDP policy during his 30 years as a member, too.
I enjoyed my time running for office, but wasn't obviously hugely good at that.- Dominic Cardy, former NDP leader
He said he made it clear to Higgs he would remain a libertarian on social issues, and said those questions will take a back seat to larger priorities, such as turning around the province's finances.
"This is going to be a big, broad tent of people who want to change New Brunswick," Cardy said. Other issues can be dealt with down the road but "right now, we've got to make sure we've got enough money to keep the lights on."
Higgs said he's already used to pulling together a broad range of views within the existing PC caucus.
"I expect that," he said. "I want people who are going to bring ideas, and are going to bring action, into the group. We can work through any minor issues that come up, because I do it every day with everyone."
'Was just a visitor to the NDP'
The NDP's new interim leader, Rosaire L'Italien, said Cardy's move to the PCs "confirms the opinion of most of his detractors: he was and is a conservative. In the end, Cardy was just a visitor to the NDP."
Higgs and Cardy are trying to turn the PC party "into a populist right-wing movement," L'Italien said in a written statement. "They are trying to import Donald Trump's way of doing politics, and it won't work."
Early in Higgs's tenure as former premier David Alward's finance minister, Cardy suggested he should resign for "rubber-stamping … irresponsible spending decisions" by the PC government while speaking against them.
But the two men later worked together when Higgs incorporated many of Cardy's ideas into legislation on fiscal accountability — laws the Gallant Liberals have since repealed.
Won't rule out running as candidate
Cardy wouldn't rule out running as a PC candidate in next year's election, but he said his focus now is on offering the party strategic advice.
Cardy failed to win a seat in the legislature as a candidate in two byelections and in the last provincial election.
"I enjoyed my time running for office but wasn't, obviously, hugely good at that, and I'm looking forward to getting on with this challenge, where I think I've got a lot of skills and experience to bring to the table," he said.
Cardy said many of his core supporters from his time as NDP leader were moving over to the PCs with him.
Nick Taggart, the NDP's former treasurer, said on Twitter that he hasn't bought a PC membership card, "but if the provincial election was tomorrow, I'd be voting PC."