FREDERICTON — The Progressive Conservatives and Liberals are the only two parties fielding candidates in all of New Brunswick's 49 ridings, but the Greens are the sole party to have reached gender parity with their slate of nominees.
"More than half our candidates are women running for the Greens in this election," Green Leader David Coon boasted Friday afternoon, following the deadline for registration. The Greens will have 47 candidates.
"There's a significant diversity among our candidates as well," Coon said. "We have Indigenous candidates, candidates of colour, candidates from the LGBTQ community. It's people from all walks of life, and small business people, and educators and artists to lawyers."
Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said he was pleased with his slate of candidates, seventeen of whom are women — or 35 per cent.
"I am excited about the quality of candidates that have come forward to be part of our mission to save New Brunswick," Higgs said Friday. "We will stay focused as a team, developing a mission for our province, and building on that mission."
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers expressed disappointment Friday that only 10 of his party's 49 candidates are women — or 20 per cent. He put the blame on the snap election call.
"Because of the snap election we were under tight guideline," Vickers said. "I'll be frank with this: I am disappointed with the number of women candidates that we have in the party."
"I myself have spoken literally with dozens of female candidates during the past year but we have to do everything possible to ensure that we attract more women. I'm proud to say Alice McKim of Saint John Harbour, a transgender, will be representing that segment of our society."
The People's Alliance party is running a record 36 candidates, up from the 30 they fielded in 2018. "The growth in support from voters and candidates is overwhelming," Leader Kris Austin said Friday. Nine of the People's Alliance candidates are women.
The New Democrats are fielding 33 candidates, 12 of whom are women. And the KISS party — which stands for Keep It Simple Solutions — has four candidates who are all male. There are nine Independents on the ballot — eight men and one woman.
On the campaign trail Friday, the Liberals promised to make nursing a more attractive profession to help stop nurses from leaving the province once they graduate.
Vickers said in Fredericton if his party forms government, he'll negotiate a contract for the province's nurses that is fair, respectful and ensures workplace safety.
"Nurse recruitment will be an important part of the new 10-year, health-care human resources strategy that we will aggressively implement," Vickers said.
He added that salaries must be competitive to stem the outflow of nursing graduates from the province. Vickers also promised to introduce a targeted tuition-relief program for students enrolled in post-secondary nursing schools.
The New Brunswick Nurses Union issued a statement Friday lamenting how its members are forced to work short-staffed and under stressful conditions. Union president Paula Doucet said the lack of planning for health-care resources, "is deeply troubling to me, as a (registered nurse) and as a citizen of this province."
"Not to mention how a global pandemic has impacted health-care workers in this province. When society was told to stay home, RNs continued to go to work every day."
Coon stood outside the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton Friday to say a Green government would expand the use of team-based medicine to improve access to primary health care.
"We need a new deal with family doctors that would see them integrated with nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, dieticians, mental health specialists, pharmacists and others into primary health-care teams," he said.
During a campaign story in Saint Leonard, Higgs said if re-elected, his government would protect the province's natural environment and encourage the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
"We bundled licences to make it more convenient for the outdoor community to buy licences together — and at a discount," Higgs said. He said his government eliminated the fee for minor hunting licences, "removing a barrier for young New Brunswickers to get to know the sport."
Meanwhile, Austin toured the Oromocto Food Bank Friday. He said people are struggling with food security and the problem will increase in the coming months when the federal government's emergency relief payments come to an end.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 28, 2020.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press