New Brunswick Progressive Conservative candidate Robert Gauvin answers questions from the media in Fredericton on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. A former Tory deputy premier is now the Liberal candidate for the riding of Shediac Bay-Dieppe in New Brunswick’s provincial election. Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers announced the nomination of Robert Gauvin this morning. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James West

New Brunswick Liberals announce ex-Tory deputy premier as candidate in election

FREDERICTON — A former Tory deputy premier is now the Liberal candidate for the riding of Shediac Bay-Dieppe in New Brunswick’s provincial election.

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers announced the nomination of Robert Gauvin today.

Gauvin left the Progressive Conservatives in February to sit as an Independent in protest over health-care reforms that would have seen the closure of emergency rooms in some rural hospitals.

The government later scrapped the idea because of public backlash and gaps identified in the plan.

Meanwhile, Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs is promising improved services for mental health and addiction if his government is re-elected.

Higgs said today at a campaign stop in Oromocto that the rising level of mental illness and addiction in the province is alarming.

He says a recent survey indicated over half of New Brunswickers felt they were at higher risk of mental health problems due to COVID-19.

The Tory leader says he would continue the five-year plan his government put in place, which includes better access to counselling.

Higgs announced Monday he’s sending voters to the polls Sept. 14 after failing to reach a power-sharing deal with the opposition.

It is the first provincial election campaign in the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campaign signs popped up across the province overnight as the provincial election campaign entered its first full day.

While the campaign signs are a common sight during elections, the rest of the campaign will be much different because of COVID-19 concerns.

The parties will be placing a greater emphasis on social media and mail-outs rather than door-to-door canvassing.

At dissolution, the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals each had 20 seats in the legislature, while the Greens and the People’s Alliance each had three. There were two vacant seats and one Independent.

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