National Newswatch

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has called a pair of byelections for Monday, June 15.

There are vacancies in the ridings of St. Croix and Shediac Bay-Dieppe following the death of Progressive Conservative Greg Thompson and the resignation of Liberal Brian Gallant.

Higgs said he would have scheduled the votes sooner but had concerns about interfering with municipal elections set for May and consultations on health-care reforms in April and May.

"I want residents in these regions to have the opportunity to fully engage in that process," Higgs said Monday.

The premier also acknowledged concerns about campaigning during an expected outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

"We like to think we have the precautions in place, but we're not going to risk New Brunswickers' health," he said.

Higgs said if the June date becomes an issue during a potential outbreak, it could be changed.

Green Leader David Coon said the coronavirus should be considered by all the parties when it comes to the byelections — and the possibility of a general election.

"People might not answer the doors when we go knocking," Coon said Monday. 

"There's got to be an adult in the room on this.... We have an older population in the province. We need to take this seriously," he said.  

The Liberals have vowed to try to topple the government in a vote on Tuesday's budget, but Higgs said they should rethink that for a number of reasons, including the possibility of prompting an election during a health crisis.

"I think there's a lot of additional reasons they should be rethinking their plans but this might be one that actually gets traction," Higgs said.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2020.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

Click here for more political news headlines