Health care and education big issues as N.B. leaders take part in debate

Election

New Brunswick's party leaders began a televised leaders forum Wednesday with clashing views on how to address health care services in the province.

Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs told the forum on CBC that government needs to look for innovative ways to deliver services because of competition for doctors.

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers accused Higgs of having a secret agenda to cut services, while other leaders said they'd boost doctor recruitment and mental health and addiction services if they form government after the Sept. 14 election.

The exchange comes after a large portion of the province's electorate has already cast their ballots.

Unofficial figures released from Elections New Brunswick indicate a 50 per cent jump from the previous election during two days of early voting in the country's first election since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency says a total of 133,000 people voted on Saturday and Tuesday, an increase of 45,000 from advance polling in 2018. The total is about one third the number of people who voted in the last provincial election.