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Number of PC MLAs bowing out before N.B. election will make for interesting race in some ridings

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One after the other, Progressive Conservative MLAs and ministers have announced they’re not reoffering in the upcoming New Brunswick provincial election.

The latest is Environment Minister Gary Crossman, who said Friday he will be stepping down as both an MLA and minister in the coming days.

He added in his statement his “personal and political believes no longer align in many ways with the direction of our party and government.”

It’s going to make for a completely different era at the N.B. legislature – once the race is over.

“Right now the plot seems to thicken almost every few days, five days or seven days, and we get another candidate not declaring or saying that they're going to step aside,” said Mount Allison University political science professor Mario Levesque. “We're not talking backbenchers here that are resigning. We're talking people that are huge cabinet ministers.”

In February, Arlene Dunn, Mike Holland, Jeff Carr and Daniel Allain announced they would not be running again, and some – like Dunn – resigned almost immediately.

Trevor Holder and Dorothy Shephard – who have almost 40 years experience as MLAs between them – announced in March, followed by Bruce Fitch and Crossman in April.

After 14 years, Ross Wetmore announced last year he would be leaving politics, too.

Some of them have included the party’s direction as part of the reason they’re choosing not to run.

“This does happen. If you look back in New Brunswick history, there's like a smattering here and there of candidates not wanting to run again because they don't agree with their party. But it's normally a one- or two-off, not a whole gaggle,” said University of New Brunswick political science professor J.P. Lewis.

The PC party has 24 of 49 candidates nominated for the Oct. 21 election.

One of the most interesting regions will likely be Saint John, where Shephard, Holder and Dunn’s ridings are located.

“Suddenly now when you have someone like Holder, who had been the MLA for so many years, what does that mean for the competitiveness of ridings like that?” asked Lewis.

Levesque said it’s likely going to mean a tight race, where a minority government could be the result.

“In Saint John, my goodness, it's wide open now. If even half those seats go Liberal, it'll be really close for the final election result,” he said. “And so for Mr. Higgs, it'll be really, really hard for him to form another majority. That's what it suggests right now.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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