Kevin Vickers is calling on the Premier to make economic recovery and supporting business his top priority.
The Liberal Leader says that Premier Higgs is doing less to help the economy rebound from the Covid 19 crisis than any other Premier and this will likely be felt most in the new year. “The Premier has no real plan to help the economy like the other provinces who are supporting business and making strategic investments,” said Vickers.
“Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenny just announced a major economic recovery plan spurred on by strategic investments. Not only does Premier Higgs not have a plan for economic recovery, he is not interested in strategic investments, even when the federal government is offering 80% dollars! Economic recovery should be what drives the Higgs agenda, not an election!”
Vickers pointed out that last week, there were layoffs here in New Brunswick at Westjet, Atlantic Lottery Corporation, Mount Allison University and Air Canada. “Many bars, restaurants and other small businesses are closing for good. Hotel operators have expressed skepticism about things getting much better this year. How can we afford not to make the economy our first priority?”
Vickers submits that Premier Higgs is attempting to excuse his inactions by casting blame for New Brunswick’s economic woes on Covid19 and the Trudeau government. “This is not leadership and it is reminiscent of the approach south of the border of Donald Trump who is trying to make excuses for his inactions by blaming the Democrats and Covid19”, said Vickers.
“Another unfortunate parallel is that like Trump and his rallies, Premier Higgs with his call for an election, appears to be putting his political agenda before the health and safety of our citizens. Having an election during a pandemic will present unique challenges, and health and safety obviously must be a top priority, and let’s not forget this pandemic is far from over”.
“People are pleased that we have been able to flatten the curve, but they know we must continue be vigilant to minimize the potential for outbreaks and the thought of an election and all the activity associated with it is troubling to many”, said Vickers.
Vickers says that the Liberal party will be prepared to fight a general election and is taking steps to prepare, but argues that it is completely unnecessary because he has already said it is not the intention of the Liberal MLAs to bring the government down.
Vickers can’t figure out what is motivating the Premier to speculate about calling an election, but suspects it is borne of political opportunism and in furtherance of a hidden agenda.
“We are hearing renewed concerns about cuts to rural hospitals. Concerns also remain about the Premier’s attempt to increase police powers and bring in legislation that would allow his government to override our laws”, said Vickers. “The Premier needs to come clean with his intentions.”
As Vickers points out, the Leaders of all political parties agreed to serve on the Covid19 Committee and to put the health and safety of New Brunswickers before politics.
“Dr. Russell is telling us we are still not out of the woods when it comes to the virus” said Vickers. “On one hand, the Premier is telling people to avoid crowds and maintain social distancing and refusing to let border communities bubble, yet he is prepared to move forward with an election that is unwanted and unnecessary. It is irresponsible and reckless.”
The Liberal Leader submits that the focus should be on calling the bi-elections for the two seats where voters have been unrepresented in the Legislature. “It is unprecedented that the people of St. Croix and Shediac Bay-Dieppe have had to go so long without representation in the Legislative Assembly,” said Vickers. “These bi-elections must be held at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Vickers believes that managing risk associated with two bi-elections would be much easier than trying to manage risk for a general election. “There is a big difference in the risk associated with two elections as opposed to 49 separate elections. We suggest that if Elections NB can show the bi-elections can be held safely this be undertaken as a pilot project by Elections NB – an opportunity to ensure best practices can be put in place for the safety of voters.”
As for a general election, Vickers is convinced that the public and the other parties do not want one at this time. “When you look at the 2018 election, the votes for the 4 other parties – the Liberal Party, the Green Party, the People’s Alliance and the NDP represent roughly 70% of the electorate. I am calling on the other party leaders to stand up and give the Premier a message that he should dispense with plans for an election and focus instead on getting our economy up and running again. It should be all about the economy.”