N.B. Liberal leadership race drops to 4 candidates as 5th hopeful appeals

·3 min read
Seamus Byrne contends he didn't have enough time to gather the required 50 signatures of card-carrying Liberal members willing to endorse him. (Submitted by Seamus Byrne - image credit)
Seamus Byrne contends he didn't have enough time to gather the required 50 signatures of card-carrying Liberal members willing to endorse him. (Submitted by Seamus Byrne - image credit)

There will be four candidates for the New Brunswick Liberal Party leadership, barring a successful last-minute appeal by a fifth potential hopeful who failed to meet key requirements to join the race.

Rothesay businessman Seamus Byrne says the rules imposed on those who want the job are too onerous for someone like him.

"I know one thing. I know that this process is not democratic," Byrne said in a telephone interview, during which he equated his own campaign with the future of the province.

"I know this process is flawed. And me not being green-lighted is probably the worst thing that can happen to New Brunswick at this point in time."

Under rules released in February, leadership candidates had until May 2 to submit the signatures of 50 card-carrying Liberal members willing to endorse them.

"No one has the time to do that," Byrne said, despite acknowledging he'd been planning to run for the leadership since January 2021. "They didn't give me enough time to get this thing accomplished."

He said he asked the people he signed up if they were Liberal supporters but did not ask them for proof they were party members.

Details being sorted out, says association president

New Brunswick Liberal Association president Brian Murphy said on Thursday that four candidates had met the threshold for approval as candidates.

He didn't identify them, but they are former MP T.J. Harvey, former MLA Donald Arseneault, current MLA Robert Gauvin and former Liberal candidate Susan Holt.

"There's some fine details that need to be sorted out with the fifth applicant. It may work out. Time is getting close to the end," said Murphy, who emphasized a steering committee was vetting the candidates and he had no role in it.

"I gather that there are still negotiations, meetings and times to rectify one of the applications that was put in."

I'm in this process where a three-person committee decides on my fate and that's it. - Seamus Byrne, leadership candidate hopeful

Under the leadership race rules, a candidate whose application was "incomplete or deficient" would have 48 hours to correct it.

Byrne said he was told Thursday that the two-day extension had elapsed and he was not approved. He can appeal that decision to a party committee.

"I'm in this process where a three-person committee decides on my fate and that's it," Byrne said. "That's the fate of New Brunswick. And it's a shame."

Byrne, whose uncle Ed Byrne authored the landmark Equal Opportunity report that guided major reforms by Premier Louis J. Robichaud in the 1960s, said his family "has been Liberal since the dawn of time, literally."

Despite that, he argues the requirement for 50 signatures from party members put him at a disadvantage, because he lacked the profile of a sitting MLA who can easily gather a large number of Liberal supporters.

"For a guy like me, to ask people to come to Tim Hortons and sign a piece of paper, who's going to do it? Who's going to support John Doe?"

Byrne was travelling outside New Brunswick this week on business but said that as of Thursday a campaign supporter was at his home trying to gather new signatures from confirmed party members.

He also criticized the $30,000 entry deposit that candidates had to submit, despite successfully meeting that requirement.

"I must look ridiculous to do this," he said. "I must look like a crazy, crazy person. But I'm actually the sanest person doing it."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting