Liberal leadership candidates say post key to party's future

The three candidates vying to become the next leader of the New Brunswick Liberals agree a new leader is critical to the party's future after a crushing defeat at the polls two years ago.

The Liberals were kicked out of office after only one term in the September 2010 election, when voter confidence in the party plummeted.

Victor Boudreau has been serving as the interim leader, but a new leader will be selected on Oct. 27 in Moncton.

Leadership hopeful Nick Duivenvoorden, the former mayor of Belledune, believes the vote this time around will focus on the people more than ever before.

"In the spirit of renewal the members of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick made it clear they wanted to be part of the process," he said during a Liberal leadership debate on CBC News Thursday morning.

The political inexperience of young Moncton-area lawyer Brian Gallant has been criticized throughout the campaign.

But Gallant contends his youth and new ideas should be seen as an asset to the party's efforts for a fresh start.

"They want to see the government and political leaders more inclusive, more accountable by keeping promises about their motives, see the end of patronage, see more of people doing what's right for New Brunswickers," he said.

Former Liberal health minister Mike Murphy, who also lives in the Moncton area, said his record speaks for itself.

"We have the largest health reform in 45 years," he said. "We went from a deficit of $47 million to a surplus of $4 million in one full fiscal year, brought in an ambulance system, a trauma system."

The Progressive Conservatives currently have 41 seats in the legislature, while the Opposition Liberals have 13.

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