Speculation continues to swirl on an election call in New Brunswick.
An announcement in Saint John on Friday was a glimpse of what the lead up to an election during the COVID-19 pandemic could look like.
“You can count on the government of New Brunswick to continue to be there to support you, the same way that we are today,” said Trevor Holder, N.B. Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour during Friday’s announcement.
While there was not a normal crowd to hear a speech, the announcement involved lots of money- $10 million for economic development in the Greater Saint John Region, including the creation of a single agency to work on regional growth.
But Holder says Friday’s announcement has nothing to do with an election.
“We’ve been working hard on how we can reenergize the economy coming out of COVID, that’s what today is about,” said Holder.
But Holder’s boss hasn’t ruled out going to the polls.
With three by-elections on the horizon, the Liberals have promised not to spark an election, even if they win all three.
Earlier this week, N.B. premier Blaine Higgs said he can’t put much stock into that promise. But Higgs’ tone changed during an interview with CTV Atlantic anchor Steve Murphy on Thursday night.
“I would be interested to see how that might work, because I think there’s certainly an interest for us to be able to continue,” said Higgs. “I need to move the province forward, we can’t just stall. I didn’t get here just to be here on hold for two years, I came to make a difference to the province.”
“We’re going through a pandemic right now, where we have worked well as a team, and it would be great to think that we could continue that, but there are visible cracks in the foundation," added Higgs. “In the past several months there’s been three different times where the leader of the opposition has basically threatened to take an election."
The opposition Liberal party says they did put it in writing a month ago.
In a letter to the premier dated July 6, Liberal leader Kevin Vickers wrote:
“I want you to know as I have repeatedly publicly expressed that our party has no intention of causing an election this current year. I give my word.”
At the end of the letter Vickers wrote:
“I wish to reiterate my promise to you that the Liberal party will not cause an election this year given the pandemic and the required focus on the recovery of our economy.
Late Friday, Higgs acknowledged that he had received Vickers letter in a statement to CTV News, writing:
“Yes I have received the letter you referenced from Kevin Vickers. Such an agreement would have to be more detailed and would have to include the other parties in order to accomplish what we need it to. My primary objective is to ensure stability for New Brunswick while we move our province forward in health, education, in social matters, and in economic recovery.”
New Brunswick MLA’s are preparing for an election, just in case.
Conservative MLA Gary Crossman’s nomination meeting is Saturday.
“In general, I don’t think people want an election right now,” said Crossman. “But to understand the full gamut, if it didn’t go well in these by-elections, then you’re into a full election anyways. So it’s weighting the odds, one against the other. We’ll wait for the premier to make that call when he’s ready.”
Saint John’s lone Liberal MLA says he doesn’t know yet if he’ll run again.
“If I run, can I win? Who runs against? There’s all kinds of questions, but you’ve got to realize, I sat 17 days in that courthouse up there, and that didn’t please met at all,” says Gerry Lowe, who won the Saint John Harbour riding by just 10 votes, two years ago.
If an election is called for the province during the COVID-19 pandemic, Elections New Brunswick says they are prepared but it will be expensive, and unlike any other in the province’s history.