New Brunswick

Longest-serving Liberal MLA hopes for general election, despite talks to delay one

The longest-serving Liberal member of the legislature says he’d prefer to trigger a general election than sign a two-year ceasefire with the Progressive Conservative minority government.

'Our caucus is not representing the whole province, but in an election everybody will have a say: yes or no'

Liberal MLA Denis Landry said he would rather go to an election than wait until the fall of 2022. (Jacques Poitras/CBC News)

The longest-serving Liberal member of the legislature says he'd prefer to trigger a general election than sign a two-year ceasefire with the Progressive Conservative minority government.

"I would rather like to go to an election," Denis Landry told activist Jefferson George Wright, who was buttonholing politicians Friday morning as they arrived for a third day of negotiations.

"Our caucus is not representing the whole province, but in an election everybody will have a say: yes or no." 

That's not the position articulated by Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers, who says Higgs should not call an election. 

Landry was first elected in 1995 and has been an MLA for all but four years ever since. He's is serving as leader of the Official Opposition in the legislature because Vickers does not have a seat. 

Asked by reporters if the Liberal caucus will support Vickers whatever he decides on signing a deal, Landry said, "I wouldn't say no or yes. I'm going to tell you why: we're working as a team and the leader will go with what the caucus decides."

The Liberal caucus is scheduled to meet at noon. Vickers said last night he'll stay in the talks until he gets direction from his MLAs.

Landry made the comments as he, Vickers and party staffer Greg Byrne arrived around 9 a.m.

Vickers acknowledged Thursday night there were "reservations and concerns" within his caucus about the negotiations with Premier Blaine Higgs.

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said there are reservations and concerns among Liberal caucus members, (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Vickers wouldn't say whether he's optimistic there will be a deal today, which is the deadline established by Higgs.

"We're here in good faith," he said.

Avoiding early election 

Higgs sent a letter to the three opposition parties Monday asking them to to agree to avoid forcing an early election until the scheduled date in October 2022 or until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Higgs has been hinting for weeks that he would trigger a campaign, justifying the threat by saying the province needs stability to manage the pandemic and continue restarting the economy.

The agreement would include a promise by the other parties to not defeat the Progressive Conservative minority government on confidence and supply votes such as the budget and trigger a campaign.

Premier Blaine Higgs speaks to reporters on Day 2 of negotiations to have all four parties agree to postpone an early election call to October 2022. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

In return, Higgs, whose approval ratings in polls have been at record highs, would also not call an election until 2022.

The premier said he wants a deal by the scheduled end of the talks on Friday because the coming weeks are the best "window" for an election if one has to happen, with the province in a relative lull with COVID-19 ahead of a possible second wave.

Mathematically, Higgs doesn't need the Liberals to be part of a deal for him to stay in power for two more years. The votes of the Greens and the Alliance would be enough.

But he said Thursday night that he needed all four parties to be part of any deal. 

Activist urges for byelection to go ahead 

On Friday morning, Wright, a Saint Johner whose email address identifies him with the "UFO Party," politely urged the politicians arriving for the meetings to stand up for democracy.

He said three looming byelections should go ahead this fall.

"It seems there is the long-term planning of a tyranny in place," he said. "I just mean a government that is more happy to control us than to be free." 

Saint John Activist Jefferson George Wright, spoke to the three Green MLAs, People's Alliance leader Kris Austin and Vickers and Landry in Fredericton Friday morning about triggering an election. (Jacques Poitras/CBC News)

Wright protested the postponement of municipal elections at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Friday morning he spoke to the three Green MLAs, People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin, Vickers and Landry.

"I was treated with dignity and respect," Wright said. "My heart feels pure. I spoke truth to people. I received from those politicians truthful answers back. It seemed like I was understood, so this was nothing but a miraculous success for me." 


Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.


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