New Brunswick·Election Notebook

Gay candidate confused by Liberal leader's accusations of homophobia

Liberal and PC candidates dropped by their parties because of derogatory comments toward the LGBTQ community say they'll run anyway in the Sept. 14 provincial election. 

Neither of the candidates dropped by their parties for offensive language will withdraw from election

New Brunswick is into the final week of a four-week contest to determine who will govern the province. (CBC News)

Latest

  • Former PC candidate apologizes for post
  • More than 29,000 vote in advance polls Tuesday
  • Greens would make chief medical officer independent of government
  • People's Alliance would help with training costs for volunteer firefighters
  • NDP favours cultural sensitivity campaigns
  • Where the leaders are today

A Saint Croix candidate who was dropped by the Liberal Party for homophobic comments says he is perplexed by the decision because he is an openly gay man.

"I can't make this stuff up," John Gardner said Tuesday. "It's too funny."

Just five days before his wedding in Saint Andrews, the 54-year-old was removed as a Liberal candidate, but he quickly decided he would keep running in Saint Croix riding.

"It's one of the best things that could've happened," he said.

It was too late to remove the party affiliation from the ballot, but Gardner said he'll sit as an Independent if he wins on Sept. 14. 

Roland Michaud in Victoria-La Vallée riding took a similar approach after being dropped Monday as a Progressive Conservative candidate over derogatory comments about the LGBTQ community. Party leader Blaine Higgs said Michaud was withdrawing from the campaign, but the candidate said he would keep running and would sit as an Independent if successful.

If the candidates had withdrawn from the election, any votes cast for them would have been considered spoiled.

In a Facebook post two years ago, Gardner said it was important to recognize everyone, not just minority groups, after the Village of Chipman made headlines for raising a straight pride flag

On Tuesday, Gardner said the party has accused him of being homophobic and it also complained of an offensive comment he posted about Jody Wilson-Raybould.

John Gardner made a Facebook post two years ago that suggested he was OK with Chipman's straight pride flag and called for better treatment of everyone, not just minority groups. (Facebook)

In another Facebook post this week, Gardner acknowledged his comments appeared to be homophobic but said they were "pointing out the way in which we all fight for our rights, and sometimes conflict with what others consider to be their rights."

Gardner said he's confident he has a chance in Saint Croix and will continue to campaign on issues related to rural health care and year-round transportation for Campobello Island. 

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers says Gardner also made comments about women and francophones that make him unsuitable as a Liberal candidate. (Maria Burgos/CBC)

Gardner said he doesn't regret his post about the straight-pride flag in Chipman because he believes everyone should feel included. He flies a Pride flag outside his bed-and-breakfast business, he said. 

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said he is aware of Gardner's sexual orientation but suggested some of his other posts, related to women and the francophone community, were also troubling.

Gardner says the party's response to the Facebook post he made two years ago has been good for his campaign, which he is not abandoning, despite being stricken from the Liberal candidate list. (Facebook)

"It was the totality and the frequency of those types of posts that concerned us enough that the values of the Liberal Party would not be well-represented with this individual," Vickers said Tuesday. 

Former PC candidate apologizes for post

In a Facebook video, former PC candidate Roland Michaud apologized for reposting a meme encouraging violence against transgender people in 2018. 

"I made a mistake and I apologize for that," Michaud said. 

But Michaud put out a plea to voters in Victoria-La Vallée, saying he wants to make a difference in Fredericton.

"It probably won't be my last mistake but I guarantee you it will be the last time that type of mistake happens," he said. 

In a news release, Marcel Michaud, president of the PC riding association in Victoria-La Vallée, said he will continue to back Michaud as "an independent Progressive Conservative," whom he described as "dedicated to improving the lives of residents."

In the statement, Michaud, who is not related to candidate Michaud, said the association wouldn't judge someone for making a mistake several years ago.  

Roland Michaud says he is running as an independent Progressive Conservative for Victoria-La Vallée, although he can't change the simple Progressive Conservative designation already on the ballot. If he wins, he won't be allowed to sit with the PCs. (Roland Michaud 2020 for Victoria — La Vallée/Facebook)

"No one is perfect."  

Nicolle Carlin, spokesperson for the provincial PC party, said riding associations are independent bodies. 

"The riding association can support Mr. Michaud as an independent candidate if the executive chooses to do so," she said in an email to CBC News.

"As party leader, Premier Higgs has decided that Mr. Michaud will not run as the Progressive Conservative candidate and he stands by that decision." 

This meme mocking physical violence against trans women was posted on PC candidate for Victoria - La Vallée Roland Michaud's personal Facebook account. The account is now suspended. (Screenshot from Roland Michaud Facebook )

Paul Harpelle, a spokesperson for Elections New Brunswick, said candidates who are scrubbed from a party slate but who don't withdraw from the campaign, cannot change their status to an independent candidate. People can still vote for them, however. 

"The candidates cannot change their official status, even if they tell the media and the public they are running as an independent," Harpelle said. 

Under the Political Process Financing Act, Harpelle said, any votes received for a candidate registered with a political party would be counted for the party in the calculation of the annual allowance.

If either Gardner or Michaud were to win in their ridings, the rules get even more complicated.

"It becomes an issue between the party and candidate on who they will represent, if victorious," Harpelle said.

More than 29,000 vote in advance polls Tuesday

Elections New Brunswick saw more than 29,000 voted in advance polls as of 2 p.m. Tuesday. In 2018, close to 16,500 people voted during the same period.

"We caution people not to read too much into the numbers," said Paul Harpelle, spokesperson for Elections New Brunswick.

"We hope it reflects on our efforts to flatten the election curve by voting early."

The running total so far for both Saturday and Tuesday is just under 92,000 votes.

Greens would make chief medical officer independent of government

Green Party Leader David Coon says the chief medical officer of health should be independent from government, as the position is in British Columbia.

This would allow New Brunswick's top doctor to make reports and recommendations on issues that affect the health of residents without having to go through a political filter. 

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical health officer, made daily announcements to the public about the outbreak and how New Brunswickers could protect themselves.

Green Party Leader David Coon wants the chief medical officer of health to work independently from government. (Maria Burgos/CBC)

"A Green government would ensure that the chief medical officer of health is truly independent," Coon said. 

He said he would consult the chief medical officer of health and other public health experts to see how they would improve the Public Health Act.

He also wants Public Health employees scattered in recent years throughout government to return to the Department of Health or a public health branch to ensure the department has the "people power they need," particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They lack the capacity and depth they once had," he said.

People's Alliance to help cover training costs for volunteer firefighters

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin has pledged to help volunteer fire departments by covering a portion of those training costs.

Austin said his party would also work with emergency training companies to provide a streamlined online training program that would allow volunteer firefighters to study in their spare time.

"We want to help these brave volunteers by giving them support whenever possible," Austin said in Riverview.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin say volunteer fire departments need help with training. (CBC)

"Most volunteer fire departments receive inadequate funding for training and equipment."

NDP favours cultural sensitivity campaigns 

NDP Leader Mackenzie Thomason blamed the recent removal of Liberal and PC candidates on Premier Blaine Higgs's decision to call a snap election.

"If you plan on gambling with the future of the province, you had best be prepared for unpleasant surprises along the way," he said. 

Higgs and Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers were so desperate for a full slate of candidates, Thomason said, that "they didn't consider all of the ramifications of their ill-advised decision of forcing an election on New Brunswickers."

NDP Leader Mackenzie Thomason says the province should be investing in cultural sensitivity and awareness campaigns. (Maria Burgos/CBC)

While he's pleased the two candidates were dropped from their respective parties, Thomason is troubled by the transphobia and homophobia that still exist in New Brunswick.

"This points to a rather obvious conclusion that racism, sexism, trans and homophobia are very much still present in New Brunswick," he said.

"We should be investing in cultural sensitivity and awareness campaigns so we can work towards eliminating these regressive and hateful comments." 

Where the leaders are today

Little campaigning is planned for the day as the five party leaders prepare for CBC News and Radio-Canada forums in Moncton on Wednesday night.

The 90-minute CBC forum, called Leaders on the Record, will start at 6 p.m. and feature leader responses to questions from voters and journalists. It can be watched on CBC Television, on this website, and on CBC New Brunswick's Facebook page.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin also take part in a forum with Chambers of Commerce organizations.

Standings at dissolution: PCs 20, Liberals 20, Greens, 3, People's Alliance 3, Independent 1, vacancies 2  

For complete coverage | Links to all New Brunswick votes 2020 stories

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

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