Voting continues as New Brunswick’s mid-pandemic election draws to a close

It was an election that few seemed interested in taking part in — but it’s an election that happened anyways.

As New Brunswickers head to the polls on Monday, it’s been 28 days since PC Leader Blaine Higgs dissolved the province’s legislature in a bid to secure a majority and stabilize the political landscape.

“This is an election about stability and substance,” Higgs said.

But nearly every New Brunswick party leader — including Higgs — expressed concern or some level of caution about running a campaign in the midst of a pandemic.

At the time, Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers told media that the election was something the province “neither wants or needs.”

It was a refrain heard from Vickers throughout the campaign, suggesting that the premier was interested in seizing a political opportunity ahead of public safety.

This is the first election to be held in Canada during the coronavirus pandemic. As such, it has drawn eyes from across the country as some provincial governments and municipalities prepare to hold their own votes.

At dissolution, the Tories held 20 seats in the provincial legislature, while there were 20 Liberals, three People’s Alliance members, three Greens, one Independent and two vacancies.

At least 25 seats are needed for a majority in the 49-seat house.

The campaign has been an unprecedented one, with some parties choosing to modify how they campaigned.

The PCs committed to not going door to door, while other parties simply chose to follow the province’s social distancing protocols.

It was a campaign without handshakes, kissing, rallies or community barbecues. Instead, much of the campaign was conducted through social media and online.

Vickers has said the province needs a growth agenda, promising to put the province’s economic development agency — Opportunity New Brunswick — “on steroids.”

Green party Leader David Coon has committed to eliminate the use of industrial herbicide on public land, to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and to lower the legal voting age to 16 years.

The People’s Alliance, led by Kris Austin, focused on language issues — a hot-button topic in the officially bilingual province. Austin has said the money spent on providing bilingual services, particularly in health care, could be better spent.

The NDP, which had no seats in the legislature when the election was called, is being led by interim leader Mackenzie Thomason.

Higgs is seeking to become the first premier of New Brunswick to win re-election since Bernard Lord in 2003.

Polls are scheduled to close at 8 p.m. AT, with anyone in line at that time being allowed to cast a vote.

Elections New Brunswick has warned that results could take time to trickle in. The organization said results from the tabulation machines located at each of the province’s 50 returning offices will only be uploaded once all electors, including any that are standing in line waiting to vote when the polls close, have been processed.

Final results will not be published until after midnight and Elections New Brunswick has warned of lengthy delays between results reports from small polling stations and those from larger polling stations.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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