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Voting underway in N.B. PC leadership race, after 7 candidates make final speeches

The seven speeches are over and now Progressive Conservative members are voting for their next provincial leader.

The 25-minute speeches started at 10 a.m. and offered each of the seven candidates one final chance to outline their priorities or reach out to supporters of other candidates.

Former MP Mike Allen was the final leadership candidate to speak to the convention on Saturday.

Mike Allen

Former MP Mike Allen was the final leadership hopeful to speak to the crowd on Saturday. (Paul Hantiuk/CBC)

Allen spoke about his “comprehensive” solutions to turn around the province and spoke of his experience in politics and the private sector.

“I understand the challenges. I have proposed solutions for the problems. I am a unifier,” he said.

“I know what it takes to win. I want to be your leader. I am ready to be the next premier of New Brunswick.”

‘Get out of the way of prosperity’

Mel Norton

Former Saint John mayor Mel Norton was the sixth leadership candidate to speak in Fredericton on Saturday. (Paul Hantiuk/CBC)

Former Saint John Mayor Mel Norton, who does not have a seat in the legislature, said he found “little hope” for the future in many corners of the province.

“We will change that,” Norton said.

He took a direct shot at Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who is an opponent to the Energy East pipeline.

“Get out of the way of our prosperity,” Norton said.

He also praised Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and said if he is elected premier, Canadians will know that New Brunswick “is open for business again.”

He was the sixth candidate to speak on Saturday.

Late MLA wrote nomination letter

Jake Stewart

PC MLA Jake Stewart addressed the PC leadership convention in Fredericton on Saturday. (Paul Hantiuk/CBC)

MLA Jake Stewart was introduced to the convention with a letter written by the late Jim Parrott, a former heart surgeon and PC MLA, who died in October and was delivered by his widow, Theresa Parrott.

The letter described their friendship and Parrott praised the two-term MLA.

Stewart told the crowd that New Brunswick is a province that is “addicted to the status quo.”

He said the status quo is not working for the province and he would be different. He urged the PC voters to “take the road not taken.”

‘A new day for New Brunswick’

Monica Barley

Monica Barley, a bilingual Moncton lawyer, was the fourth candidate to speak at the PC leadership convention in Fredericton. (Paul Hantiuk/CBC)

Monica Barley, a Moncton lawyer, used her speech to underscore the importance of growing the base of voters for the Tories in the next election.

“It’s a new day for New Brunswick,” Barley, a bilingual lawyer from Moncton, told the crowd.

Barley also used the start of her speech to thank the PC voters in each of the satellite voting stations across the province.

She said the PCs are the party that builds bridges between communities and people.

“I will build upon this great history,” she said.

Barley offered a broad vision of her leadership but she did not offer specific ideas that she would like to implement if elected.

She also reached out to supporters of other leadership candidates, saying if their first candidate dropped off the ballot that she would welcome them.

Macdonald prioritizes health, economy

Brian Macdonald

Fredericton MLA Brian Macdonald was the third leadership hopeful to address the PC convention on Saturday. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

She followed Fredericton MLA Brian Macdonald, former finance minister Blaine Higgs and former MLA Jean Dube, in speaking to the Tory faithful.

Macdonald told the Tory members that his two top priorities were health care and the economy. 

He said he felt the government had to get the big “pieces right.”

The Fredericton MLA also seemed to make a pitch to supporters of other leadership contestants, calling them “excellent candidates.”

He ended his speech to thunderous applause.

Blaine Higgs

Blaine Higgs, the former finance minister, spoke first at the leadership convention in Fredericton. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

“With leadership and teamwork, we can turn this province around,” he said.

Former finance minister Blaine Higgs was the first to deliver a speech on Saturday.

He drew heavily on his experience in the private sector and as finance minister to woo voters.

Former MLA and MP Jean Dubé was the second leadership hopeful to take the stage. 

The northern candidate said he’s ready to govern on day one, doesn’t need two years of “going to school” to learn the job.

The speeches will be held at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton, which is the main convention venue, started at 10 a.m. but the seven candidates will also be trying to woo over potential voters in the various satellite voting centres across the province.

Each candidate has 25 minutes in front of the convention delegates, which includes any introductions and making their way to the podium.

The voting is expected to take place starting at about 1 p.m.

Jean Dube

Former MLA and MP Jean Dube was the second Tory leadership hopeful to speak at the convention on Saturday. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

The race began after former premier David Alward resigned as PC leader in 2014 following his election loss to Premier Brian Gallant’s Liberals.

With the crowded field, it is almost a certainty that the race will go to a second ballot, and it is possible that a third could be needed. 

In the event of a third ballot, only two candidates would remain in contention.

The speeches will be an attempt to win over voters for the first ballot, but also to reach out to supporters of other candidates, who may be eliminated on later ballots.

Article source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/progressive-conservative-leadership-speeches-1.3817168?cmp=rss