Veteran Liberal MLA offers to give up seat for new leader

·3 min read
Susan Holt, left, says she’s not in a rush to find her way into the legislature, but Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint Isidore MLA Denis Landry says he'd be willing to step down to give Holt a chance in a byelection.  (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)
Susan Holt, left, says she’s not in a rush to find her way into the legislature, but Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint Isidore MLA Denis Landry says he'd be willing to step down to give Holt a chance in a byelection. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)

Newly elected Liberal Leader Susan Holt says she's not in a rush to find her way into the legislature, but the party's longest-serving MLA says he's willing to make it happen as soon as she's ready.

Within minutes of Holt's victory, Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint Isidore MLA Denis Landry said he told her he'd be willing to step down to trigger a byelection in which she could be the Liberal candidate.

"I already offered that to Susan," he told CBC News Saturday as the leadership convention wrapped up.

Landry's riding is among the safest Liberal constituencies in the province. He won it with 63.8 percent of the vote in the last election.

Landry was first elected in the 1995 provincial election. He lost in 1999, won his seat back in 2003 and has been re-elected ever since.

Holt said Saturday that two Liberal MLAs had already "whispered in my ear" that they might be willing to step aside to speed her entry into the legislature.

"There are some folks who've had long careers who are ready, maybe, to retire and pass the torch," she said, though she wouldn't identify them.

But the new leader said she was not in a rush.

"I don't think in short order because I think there is work to be done to build the foundation of this party, so I don't think it's urgent."

Holt became the first woman elected as Liberal leader in the party's history with 51.67 per cent of the vote in the third round of the party's preferential ballot process.

Landry, who supported T.J. Harvey in the race, said he'd like to see Holt in the house as soon as possible.

"She's going to write a page of our history today," he said.

"I would like for her to be in the legislature for people to know her better. There's only two years before the next election and I think this would be a pretty nice platform for her to be well-known."

Holt won on Saturday despite Harvey, the former Tobique-Mactaquac MP, leading in the first two rounds.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

As rivals Robert Gauvin and Donald Arseneault dropped off, Holt picked up more second and third-choice votes from their supporters.

Without a seat in the legislature, Holt does not gain the title of leader of the Official Opposition, a legislative role that goes to an elected MLA.

With interim leader Roger Melanson giving up that position, Holt will have to choose a sitting member to lead the Official Opposition until she gets a seat and assumes that role.

Election scheduled for 2024

Holt said she'd like to do that at some point before the next election, which is scheduled for October 2024.

She'll also have to decide where to run in the next general election.

Holt ran in Fredericton South, where she lives, in 2018 against Green Leader David Coon. Coon won 56 per cent of the vote while Holt was a distant second with 20 per cent.

She said she's willing to run against Coon again but will wait to see how a just-launched electoral boundary revision plays out.

An independent commission will redraw the riding map before October 2024. She said that could affect "what side of the line my house is on," potentially moving her into Fredericton West-Hanwell.

Landry said even if he steps aside for Holt, the province's electoral law allows Premier Blaine Higgs to drag out a byelection call for a long time.