SAINT JOHN — Former Liberal MLA Abel LeBlanc is the newest member of the provincial New Democratic Party.
LeBlanc said at press conference in Saint John on Monday his move comes from a desire to see things change for the better in New Brunswick.
“We’ve gone down the same worn out path with these two other parties and things aren’t going to get any better if we keep going back to them,” he said in a press release. “The NDP offers a real chance for change and that appeals to me.”
NDP leader Dominic Cardy welcomed LeBlanc to the party. He said he was happy to have someone of LeBlanc’s experience joining the NDP.
“Anyone who knows Abel knows he is a man of strong personal convictions and someone who works tirelessly for the people in his riding. This is precisely the kind of person we need to help build this party,” he said.
LeBlanc was elected as a Liberal from 2003 until 2010 and served as MLA for Saint John Lancaster, until Progressive Conservative and Healthy and Inclusive Communities Minister Dorothy Shephard won in 2010.
LeBlanc said he’s been contemplating the move for a while and withdrew his name about a month ago.
During that month there were a couple incidents that made him think twice about his tenure as a Liberal.
Last month at the Rothesay Liberal convention, LeBlanc said he felt nominee John Wilcox didn’t get a fair chance. LeBlanc said he was disappointed to see three buses hauling in students to give Stephanie Tomilson, principal of Rothesay High School and Liberal candidate for Rothesay, their vote.
“When you see this kind of stuff going on, it’s time to say goodbye.”
Liberal voters are not required to prove their age at a nomination convention, only their membership form. The provincial and federal Liberal parties both allow for membership in the party who are below the voting age, said Britt Dysart, president of the New Brunswick Liberal Association.
People aged 14 and above are allowed to vote at nomination meetings.
The decision said about 20 voters under the age of 18 attended the nomination, while five were not allowed to vote.
LeBlanc said he was also disappointed to see close friend and nominee Ivan Court lose to current Liberal candidate for Saint John Lancaster Peter McGuire.
After those events, he expressed an interest in the NDP and made a decision to jump ship after talking to some trusted people.
“What would you think if I ran for the NDP party?” he’d ask.
As a politician, LeBlanc said he takes pride in working with people to better their lives and the community.
“You can’t turn your back on people. There’s so much need in Saint John Lancaster that really hasn’t been looked at in the last four years.”
Cardy said he’s excited to see LeBlanc and others like him join the NDP.
“He’s someone who speaks his mind and is passionate about his community and making sure that people who may have been left behind by our system are taken care of and looked after. I think he speaks to the strong part of the NDP’s traditional focus on social justice.”
LeBlanc, who’s turned the page on his days as a Liberal, has been known to speak his mind. On Feb. 11, 2010, LeBlanc was expelled from the legislature following a verbal outburst, which included giving two Tory MLAs the finger.
And in the spring of 2008 LeBlanc also threatened to assault former N.B. health minister Mike Murphy. During a Liberal caucus meeting in Fredericton, the LeBlanc threatened to punch Murphy in the face, furious with the health minister’s response to LeBlanc’s demands to have a Saint John woman, ill with cancer and awaiting a PET scan, fast-tracked past every other sick person in the province on the waiting list.
Despite everything that’s happened in the past, LeBlanc said he matches up well against Shephard and McGuire and is looking forward to taking them on.
“I’m back in the race and I’m going to give them everything they’ve missed in the last four years.”