In a historic victory on Saturday, Susan Holt was chosen as the new leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party.
She is the first woman to win the party leadership in the province.
She won in the third round with 51.67% of the vote. Former Liberal MP TJ Harvey was the finalist.
Holt will lead the party in the next election against the ruling Progressive Conservatives now led by Premier Blaine Higgs.
The former business leader and former adviser to former prime minister Brian Gallant has come forward as someone who would bring a fresh approach to politics, a theme she repeated in her victory speech.
“New Brunswickers told us they were tired of politics as usual. They were tired of conflict and fighting. They were tired of partisanship,” she said.
“They want to see something different. We can be the party that leads a change for a new policy in New Brunswick that is transparent, authentic, empathetic and collaborative.
In part, Holt’s victory was based on him being the second or third choice of two of the other contestants.
The party used ranked ballots, meaning members who voted last week ranked their first, second, third and fourth choices for leader. For a winner to be designated, a candidate had to obtain 50% of the votes.
Former Minister Donald Arseneault and current MPP Robert Gauvin were the others on the ballot.
On the first ballot, Harvey had 33.9%, Holt 32.12%, Gauvin 19.76% and Arseneault 14.22% of the points awarded in the party’s weighted voting system.
Arseneault was removed from the ballot and the votes were redistributed.
Harvey got 39.58% in the second vote, while Holt had 36.76% and Gauvin 23.67%. Gauvin fell off the ballot.
Bold change starts now!
I am honored to have earned your trust to lead the Liberal Party of New Brunswick. I said loud and clear that I wanted to change the way we do politics. And I’m so grateful that you do too. pic.twitter.com/JM2jcwJl7g
Holt said she’s had “lots of conversations” with people who initially chose Gauvin or Arseneault but were also interested in her as a potential leader.
Harvey without commitment
Harvey said that despite his loss, he was optimistic about the Liberals’ prospects, although he would not commit to running in the next election.
“It’s definitely not the result we were hoping for,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all still family and I think it was very healthy for the party.”
Harvey said his support in the first two rounds was about where his team thought it would be, but with two candidates eliminated at this point “it’s really hard to estimate where you think the support in the third round could go”.
University of Moncton political scientist Roger Ouellette said Holt’s win was a watershed moment for the Liberals.
Saint John MP Shirley Dysart briefly led the party as interim leader in 1985, but Saturday’s result is the first time party members have elected a woman to the position.
“We may see after the next general election that we will have another first with a woman as prime minister,” Ouellette said.