N.B. Tories announce convention theme, co-chairs

Progressive Conservatives announce theme and co-chairs for leadership convention.

Party meets Oct. 21-22 to elect new leader to replace David Alward who resigned after 2014 electoral defeat

New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives announced on Tuesday their plans for an October leadership convention. (CBC)

New Brunswick Tories were in an optimistic mood Tuesday as they unveiled the details of their upcoming leadership convention. 

Under the banner 'It's a new day,' the PCs will meet on Oct. 21 and 22 to elect a leader to take the reins from interim leader Bruce Fitch, appointed when former premier David Alward resigned after the party's electoral defeat in 2014.

"We want to signal it's a new day come the 23rd of October, when we elect our leader ... where every New Brunswicker will have the opportunity to contribute to democracy," said Jason Stephen, party president.

For his part, interim leader Bruce Fitch was bullish on the prospects for the soon-to-be leader.

"[We're] not just choosing the new leader for the PC party, but I truly believe that we're choosing the next premier here in the province of New Brunswick," said Fitch.

Interm PC Leader Bruce Fitch is optimistic about the next leader's chance to become premier. (CBC)
If recent history repeats itself, Fitch could well be right. The previous two premiers, Alward and Shawn Graham, ran single-term governments, something that hadn't been seen since confederation.

However, there is some rebuilding to do, as the latest Corporate Research Associates poll shows the Liberal support at 52 per cent compared to 25 per cent for the PCs.

The party also announced Bruce Northrup  MLA for Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins and former minister of natural resources in the Alward cabinet, and Madeleine Dubé, MLA for Edmundston-Saint Basile and a former minister of health, social development and education, as the co-chairs for the convention.  

The party is currently listing five leadership candidates on its website; MLAs Blaine Higgs, Brian MacDonald and Jake Stewart, former Saint John Mayor Mel Norton and Moncton lawyer Monica Barley.

Former MLA and MP Jean Dubé and former Conservative MP Mike Allen have also announced their intention to run and are in the process of becoming accredited by the party. 

To be accredited, a candidate must pay a $10,000 fee, gather 50 signatures from PC members and complete a questionnaire.

Candidates have until Sept. 21 to enter the race.