New Brunswick

Kevin Vickers tours province, will make decision on Liberal leadership this month

Kevin Vickers says he will decide before the end of March whether he will seek the New Brunswick Liberal leadership.

Vickers will speak to voters, experts to help him decide if he wants to succeed Brian Gallant

Kevin Vickers, a former ambassador and House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, is touring New Brunswick, speaking to voters and experts, while mulling a run for the provincial Liberal leadership. (Adrian Wyle/Canadian Press)

Kevin Vickers says he will decide before the end of March whether he will seek the New Brunswick Liberal leadership.

But the former ambassador to Ireland isn't pondering a future in politics while pensively staring through a window at his home in Trout Brook, northwest of Miramichi.

Vickers, who was hailed as a hero for helping end the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, has been touring the province to speak with voters and experts.

It's a tour, Vickers said, that will ultimately shape his decision.

"If I'm able to help in some way, I probably will go for it, but if I think it's a job for greater people than I, then that will be that as well," he told Information Morning Fredericton.

The former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms and native of the former town of Newcastle said he's carefully considering his skills and ensuring he has a grasp of all the major issues before deciding one way or the other.

He said does not have a team in place.

"It really sounds like he's thinking this through," J.P. Lewis, associate professor of political science at the University of New Brunswick Saint John, said when asked about Vickers's actions.

Lewis suggested Vickers would also be considering the party apparatus and the support there. Vickers did not say during the interview whether he was speaking with party officials during the tour.

A request for comment from the Liberal Party was not returned Tuesday.

Politics 'all over the map'

Vickers said he was raised in a Liberal household, but his politics cross partisan boundaries.

"All over the map," he said, describing his varied views. He's leans Progressive Conservative when it comes to fiscal policy, NDP on social programs, and he's "more green than the Greens" on the environment.

The 62-year-old said his three grandchildren are the forces motivating him.

"I want to make sure when I leave this place they'll have a home in New Brunswick that they have vibrant future, both economically and environmentally," he said.

Lewis said "it kind of makes sense" that his politics don't adhere to a single party line, since a leadership run would be his first step in partisan politics and he appears to still be formulating opinions.

"I think it's still unfolding," Lewis said.

When questioned about his vision for New Brunswick, Vickers said his conversations with New Brunswickers will help shape it.

The party's top post was vacated by former premier Brian Gallant, who stepped down in February, a little more than three months after his government lost a Nov. 2 confidence vote in the legislature.

Longtime MLA Denis Landry is serving as interim leader until the party chooses its new leader June 22.

'Strongly considering it'

With the leadership convention around the corner, speculation over who will jump into the race has ramped up. Some individuals have said they're running, while some familiar names have officially taken themselves out of the running.

Whispers of a Vickers leadership run began in December, a few weeks after Gallant announced his resignation. He said friends of his in the Acadian Peninsula began urging him to run.

"The more I looked at it the more passionate I came to it and … now strongly considering it," he said.

Vickers says one of his talents is that he can bring people together. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The potential high-profile candidate made headlines once it was confirmed he was mulling it over.

In early February, Vickers announced his retirement as ambassador. The decision was well met by some, including Liberal MLA and former cabinet minister Lisa Harris, who described Vickers as "premier material."

"I hope that in early March he'll make another announcement that he'll go forward with the leadership bid for the Liberal Party," she said at the time, adding she believes he can unite the party and province.

Vickers, who is fluently bilingual, said an ability to unify is among his talents. He said his approach helped bring an end to the Burnt Church fishing dispute, which saw clashes between Esgenoopetitj First Nation fishermen and non-Indigenous fishermen and the authorities.

Had long career

"I think one of my talents is bringing people together," he said.

"I was able to bring a balanced approach, a toolbox approach of communication, education, facilitation, respecting the dignity of people. Those were the drivers, not the rule of law, that resolved that issue."

That approach could help bridge the gap between anglophone and francophone New Brunswick, he said.

Vickers has a long career of public service, including 29 years in the RCMP. He also served as aide-de-camp for the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick. He served as sergeant-at-arms for the House of Commons between 2006 and 2015.

On Oct. 22, 2014, Vickers shot and helped take down a man armed with a .30-30 rifle. Michael Zihaf Bibeau had barged into Centre Block on Parliament Hill after killing honour guard reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

Information Morning Fredericton, Canadian Press


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