Liberal leader announces plan to run for vacant seat in Bathurst region

Liberal Leader Susan Holt said she fell in love with the Bathurst East–Nepisiguit–Saint-Isidore riding and hopes the premier won't wait too long to call a byelection. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)
Liberal Leader Susan Holt said she fell in love with the Bathurst East–Nepisiguit–Saint-Isidore riding and hopes the premier won't wait too long to call a byelection. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Susan Holt has announced her intention to run in the Bathurst East–Nepisiguit–Saint-Isidore riding, capping months of speculation.

"It was a really special moment for me today, another one of those political milestones that I'll never forget," Holt said in an interview with CBC News on Monday.

On Aug. 6, Holt became the first woman to win the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberal Party but without holding a seat in the legislature.

Within minutes of her election as leader, MLA Denis Landry said he was willing to make way for Holt to run in Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint-Isidore.

Landry is making a move to municipal politics.

"I just want to make sure that somebody will take care of my riding," Landry, who has been the party's longest-serving MLA, said Monday.

A number of options

Holt had other choices when looking around for a riding in which to run. In October, Liberal MLA Daniel Guitard confirmed his resignation as Restigouche-Chaleur MLA because he planned a mayoral run in the new community of Belle-Baie.

Jacques Poitras/CBC News
Jacques Poitras/CBC News

Guitard wasn't as straightforward as Landry in offering his seat up to Holt. He said in October that he was retiring and it would be up to the local and provincial Liberal associations and Holt to make the decision.

Then, shortly after Guitard's resignation, former interim Liberal leader Roger Melanson announced his departure. He resigned as Dieppe's MLA on Oct. 21, opening a third possibility for Holt.

"While [Landry's resignation] was the first one in, I did take the time to get to know all of the ridings and the teams," said Holt. "There's great teams of people and really great communities across this province. … My heart felt pulled towards Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint-Isidore."

The riding is among the safest Liberal constituencies in the province. Landry won it with 63.8 per cent of the vote in the last election. He was first elected in 1995, lost in 1999, won his seat back in 2003 and has been re-elected every time since.

Holt said she fell in love with the riding and sees the area is a "microcosm of New Brunswick" with Pabineau First Nation, anglophone and francophone communities all within the riding.

"I thought it would be a great place for a woman from the south to come and represent the north and really try to unify all the different people of New Brunswick," she said.

Holt said that if elected, she will be spending a lot more time in the area getting to know the people and what issues they want voiced. She plans to balance that with her work as party leader.

There is still no date for a byelection. Holt said Premier Blaine Higgs has said he won't "drag his feet" on it.

"So we will continue to ask that they set a date and set a date soon so that the people of this riding, and of Dieppe and of Restigouche-Chaleur, don't go unrepresented for longer than they have to," said Holt.