FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says he's not pushing for a provincial election later this year, but isn't ruling one out either.

Three byelections still need to be held, and Higgs told reporters Tuesday he's questioning if it makes more sense to call a general election instead.

"What is the best way to move forward to ensure we have stability in our province, to ensure that we can actually have a path forward over the next four years?," said Higgs, who leads a minority Progressive Conservative government.

"It is not a simple yes or no," Higgs continued. "It is not a decision that I'll make lightly or one that I've made at this point. I guess time will tell."

A major issue is whether an election can be held safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

"In terms of the general public, I think there's mixed feelings," said Higgs. "Because many people would say, 'Is there a need? Is there a concern around the health risks, and can that be managed?"'

There has been growing speculation Higgs is leaning towards a provincial election in 2020.

His Tory party has scheduled nomination conventions for five ridings Aug. 8, including Higgs' own riding of Quispamsis. The party has scheduled two more Aug. 11 and one Aug. 12.

Green party Leader David Coon said Monday it appears the Tories are in a hurry to nominate candidates, adding that it doesn't bode well for collaboration of an all-party cabinet committee created to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liberal health critic Jean-Claude D'Amours said Monday he thinks the premier is looking for a new mandate to make cuts to services.

Elections New Brunswick confirmed Monday it ordered enough masks and other personal protective equipment and will be ready for a vote this year in all 49 ridings.

The byelections were originally scheduled for June 15 but were put on hold because of the pandemic. A bill passed to delay the votes states the byelections must be held at least 30 days before the next session of the provincial legislature, which would likely start in November.

There are currently 20 Progressive Conservatives in the legislature, 20 Liberals, three People's Alliance, three Greens and one Independent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2020.