New Brunswickers are officially in the midst of a 28-day election campaign, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
At the end of a meeting at the Lieutenant Governor’s residencePremier Blaine Higgs has confirmed that Brenda Murphy has agreed to dissolve the 49th New Brunswick Legislature and authorized elections for a September 14 poll.
«Today is not the day I hoped forPremier Higgs said.I thought we would have [sic] reached agreement to govern with continued collaboration and stabilityAdded Mr Higgs, referring to thefailed negotiations with the Liberals from last week.
Earlier this week, Premier Higgs had proposed to leaders of all parties represented in the Legislative Assembly to sign an agreement not to call an election until September 2022, or no earlier than 30 days after the declaration of a possible end of the pandemic by public health officials.
The discussions lasted almost three full days. Liberal Party leader Kevin Vickers refused the deal, arguing it undermines democracy in the legislature.
Prime Minister accuses the opposition
The Prime Minister draws up a positive assessment of the last months of collaboration.
«It worked well from all points of view“, Assured the Prime Minister at the head of a minority government, who wanted this collaboration to continue until 2022.”I want to be clear that was my goal […] but it will not be possible, because the opposition has said no.»
The Prime Minister is the person who has the power to call an election, with the blessing of the Lieutenant Governor. “If there is a general election, Prime Minister Higgs must take responsibility for causing them“, Insisted the Liberal leader last Friday.
Kevin Vickers, who accused the Prime Minister of shirking his responsibilities by blaming the election call on the opposition, called the media to take stock on Monday afternoon.
An election campaign with restrictions
The premier assures us that his decision was made in concert with the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jennifer Russell.
«I want New Brunswickers to know that I consulted with our Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, and she told me that it is safe to have a general election.»
However, some restrictions will be in effect. For example, applicants will not be allowed to go door-to-door. “As difficult as it is imagined, our candidates will not be door-to-door or hand-delivered paper to your door. Applicants should be creative and innovative.»
«We will follow strict protocols and continue to conduct ourselves in a way that keeps our province safeBlaine Higgs pointed out.
Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth warns that it will take time to open all 50 returning officers’ offices to the public and candidates.
«Unlike a scheduled election where offices would already be open, we can only start shipping materials from our warehouse as of today [lundi] and take the necessary steps to install the telephones and the Internet network”Ms. Poffenroth said in a statement.
Nominations and special ballot requests to vote by mail will not be able to be processed by returning offices until they are fully functional.
A minority government for 21 months
The Progressive Conservative Party, which has led a minority government since November 2018, holds 20 seats in the Legislature and the Liberal Party 19, not including the Speaker of the House. The People’s Alliance and the Green Party have three seats each. There is also an independent member and two vacant seats.
More details to come