New Brunswick

Higgs shifts tone, 'not hankering for an election'

Premier Blaine Higgs sounded cooler Tuesday about an early provincial election, acknowledging that many New Brunswick voters may not want to go to the polls in the midst of a pandemic. 

New Brunswick premier previously hinted at possible fall general election

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs answered a variety of questions from reporters in a scrum Tuesday afternoon. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Premier Blaine Higgs sounded cooler Tuesday about an early provincial election, acknowledging that many New Brunswick voters may not want to go to the polls in the midst of a pandemic. 

The premier acknowledged he has "mused" in recent weeks that he may opt for a general election instead of holding two or three byelections required this fall.

At times he suggested he had almost no choice, given he does not have a majority in the legislature, and Progressive Conservative MLA Bruce Northrup is retiring this fall.

But Tuesday an imminent campaign seemed far from inevitable. 

"I'm certainly not hankering for an election," he said. "It's not a process I look forward to as such."

He said among New Brunswickers, "there's a mixed feelings because many people would say 'Is there a  need? Is there a bigger concern around the health risks?'"

He said with schools reopening in September and operating under new pandemic models, and with a possible second wave of the virus, a provincial election may not be a good idea.

"My preference in many ways is really not to have an election, but time will tell where that goes," he said.

"It's still an active consideration but no decision's been made." 

Upcoming byelections

The premier said he and party staff are instead discussing the upcoming byelections, which he said will take place before Oct. 15.

In March, MLAs passed legislation requiring that byelections for two vacant seats, Saint Croix and Shediac Bay-Dieppe, must happen no later than 30 days before a new session of the legislature this fall.

Higgs said a new session will start in November, and the Oct. 15 deadline for byelections was part of an informal agreement among the four political parties in the spring. 

Saint Croix became vacant when PC cabinet minister Greg Thompson died in September 2019, and former premier Brian Gallant resigned as MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe a month later.

Since then, Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins PC MLA Bruce Northrup has announced he'll retire, though a byelection there wouldn't be covered by the March legislation. Northrup has not resigned yet.

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