New Brunswick

Liberal leadership candidate presses on, despite citizenship woes

A potential candidate for the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberals is vowing to quit the race if he has not become a Canadian citizen before party members vote.

René Ephestion confident he's eligible, says he'll have citizenship before vote

René Ephestion, the executive director of Moncton’s Nazareth House, said he still intends to run for the Liberal leadership even though he is not yet a Canadian citizen. (Radio-Canada)

A potential candidate for the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberals is vowing to quit the race if he has not become a Canadian citizen before party members vote.

René Ephestion says he's confident he'll be ruled eligible to run. The race will culminate in the election of a new leader on June 22.

Ephestion is the executive director of Moncton's Nazareth House and is a citizen of France who moved to Canada in 2015. He has permanent resident status here and applied for citizenship last September. He said he expects to have it in mid-May.

The party's rules say to be eligible to run for the leadership, a candidate must be "eligible for election to the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick in accordance with the Elections Act."

That act says only Canadian citizens can run for the legislature.

But in a news release, Ephestion interprets the rules and the act to mean the party leader must be a citizen, so he'll be meeting the requirement before the June 22 vote.

"Both documents do not explicitly prohibit permanent residents from running for the leadership," he said.

"René has stated that should he fail to achieve his citizenship prior to the leadership convention, he will withdraw from the race."

Candidate hints at conspiracy

Ephestion suggested earlier this week that members of the party establishment had inserted the rule to block him from running.

Liberal Party executive director Keiller Zed refused to comment on Ephestion's case because the leadership race steering committee has not yet received any official filings from any potential candidates.

But Zed noted earlier this week the same eligibility requirement was in place during the Liberals' 2012 leadership race.

The Progressive Conservatives, NDP and People's Alliance all have leadership or membership eligibility rules linked to citizenship.

Besides Ephestion, Restigouche businessman Gaétan Pelletier also says he's running for Liberal leader. Former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers and former Liberal candidate Stephanie Tomilson are also considering running.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.