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Kevin Vickers announces he’ll seek New Brunswick Liberal leadership

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  • NEWCASTLE, N.B. — Kevin Vickers, hailed as a hero for helping to end the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, is making a leap to politics with a bid for the leadership of New Brunswick’s Opposition Liberals.

    The former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms made the announcement to a packed hall Friday in Newcastle, N.B.

    “My roots are here. My heart is here. I love New Brunswick. And I love the people of New Brunswick. New Brunswick has been good to me. It’s now time for me to give back,” said Vickers, who is making his political debut in his early 60s.

    “I hope to make a difference right here in New Brunswick.”

    Vickers retired this month as Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, and has been travelling New Brunswick over the last two weeks.

    He is hoping to replace former premier Brian Gallant, who lost power last fall after the Liberals failed to form a minority government in the weeks following the Sept. 24 provincial election.

    Vickers acknowledged his many years away from the province, but played up his roots in New Brunswick, saying: “I’m finally home.”

    He said he had learned much during his long career as an RCMP officer about respecting the importance of everyone. His announcement Friday began with both an Indigenous honour song and an Irish dance troupe.

    “I bring people together. That is what I do. That is who I am,” Vickers said to a standing ovation.

    He listed multiple policy priorities, from health care and education to tackling climate change and green-lighting a highway project delayed by Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs.

    Vickers said he wants to increase immigration to one per cent of the provincial population annually, and to bring former New Brunswickers home again, saying growth is key.

    “Demography is destiny,” he said. 

    In a dark suit and green tie, the proud Irish-Canadian switched between French and English in front of an audience that included many sitting Liberal members of the legislature and former Liberal premier Camille Theriault.

    “I think Mr. Vickers brings a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge of the different facts in the province of New Brunswick and he offers hope,” Theriault said.

    Donald Wright, a political scientist with the University of New Brunswick, said Vickers’ entrance limits the candidates for the leadership.

    “I think him getting into the race might dissuade other people from getting into the race because he’s generated by his name a lot of buzz and a sense of inevitability, coronation. I think it’s troubling,” Wright said. 

    “It’s an unknown quantity — Kevin Vickers. Should we embrace it, I’m sure I have no idea. I think the Liberal party should be wary of throwing its lot in with an untested political neophyte.”

    Vickers has had a long career of public service, including 29 years in the RCMP. He also served as aide-de-camp for the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick. He was sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons between 2006 and 2015.

    Vickers said he learned a lot in his nine years in the House of Commons and especially enjoyed question period.

    On Oct. 22, 2014, Vickers was working in the Commons when he shot and helped take down a man armed with a .30-30 rifle. Michael Zihaf Bibeau had barged into Centre Block on Parliament Hill after killing honour guard reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

    He did not focus on the event during Friday’s announcement.

    Vickers was appointed ambassador to Ireland in January 2015 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

    Rene Ephestion, leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Multicultural Inclusion Commission, has also expressed his interest in seeking the leadership.

    Higgs’ minority government is relying on support from a third party — the right-leaning People’s Alliance, led by Kris Austin. But that arrangement is set to expire next year.

    Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press





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    National

    Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government is warning Canadians in Sri Lanka to limit their movements and avoid affected areas after a series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more.

    Global Affairs Canada has issued a statement warning that the situation in the island nation remains “volatile,” and more attacks are possible. The government has also warned that the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka in the capital Colombo will be closed on Monday due to the security situation.

    Sri Lanka’s government has imposed a nationwide overnight curfew and blocked access to social media in the wake of the attacks at churches, hotels and a guesthouse on Easter Sunday.

    The country’s foreign minister says at least 27 foreigners were among those killed in the co-ordinated attacks, but it’s not clear if any Canadians are among the victims.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the world leaders responding to the tragedy, tweeting Sunday morning that Canada “strongly condemns the heinous attacks on Christians.”

    “Absolutely horrific news from Sri Lanka,” Trudeau wrote. “Our hearts and thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those killed and all those injured.”

    The Sri Lankan defence minister said seven suspects linked to the blasts have been arrested.

    — with files from The Associated Press

    The Canadian Press


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    Hundreds of Canadian troops deployed to flood zones in Quebec and N.B.

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  • MONTREAL — Many people in Quebec and New Brunswick will be spending their Sunday filling sandbags as they keep an anxious watch on rising floodwaters that are wreaking havoc across a wide region.

    About 200 soldiers started filling sandbags and carrying out evacuations in Quebec’s Outaouais and Mauricie regions overnight, with an additional 400 troops standing ready to deploy there and in Laval today.

    Urgence Quebec says that as of last night, bloated rivers had resulted in 903 flooded residences, 251 isolated residences and 317 evacuees across the province.

    Eight major floods have been identified as threatening thousands of Quebecers, and so far one death has been blamed on the high water.

    Police say 72-year-old Louise Seguin Lortie died Saturday morning after driving her car into a sinkhole caused by flooding in the Pontiac area, about 30 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

    Some of the worst flooding has been in the Beauce region south of Quebec City, where 868 homes were swamped and 94 people evacuated.

    Meanwhile, about 120 Canadian soldiers are being deployed across western New Brunswick to help residents threatened by rising floodwaters.

    Fifteen communities in that province have been warned to remain on high alert.

     

    The Canadian Press


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