FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick election campaign began its final weekend before Monday's vote with the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives making a last province-wide push to shore up support in what's viewed as a tightened race for power.
Governing Liberal Leader Brian Gallant spent much of Saturday travelling through the province, continuing his bid to become the first sitting premier since 2003 to win a second term.
During a stop to speak to reporters in Fredericton, Gallant returned to a familiar appeal aimed at voters who could be on the fence about their choice.
"People are I think toying in some places with the idea of maybe voting for the Greens maybe voting for the NDP," said Gallant.
He said he subscribes to the idea that those voters think the Liberals will win another majority, but he added there's only one way to ensure that will happen.
"Voting for the Liberal candidate in their riding is the only way they can ensure they have a government who will fight for families who are struggling to get ahead, he said. "I implore them to look at our progressive platform ... and also realize that if there is vote splitting we could find ourselves with a Blaine Higgs and Conservative government."
The Liberals have promised 118 commitments at a projected cost of $155 million over four years during their campaign — spending that has drawn scorn from Tory Leader Blaine Higgs, who has cast his party as tight-fisted, fiscal conservatives.
Polls have suggested the Liberals have the advantage, but pundits say the race has tightened with the rival Progressive Conservatives. Observers of New Brunswick's political scene have suggested the election has boiled down to a handful of ridings that might swing.
"I'm confident that we are in a position to be able to form a majority government but at the same time there is no doubt that from the beginning of this campaign that this election would be a close one," Gallant said. "We recognize that and that's why we have been working very hard over the last few weeks to meet as many New Brunswickers as possible."
Gallant said he had seven events planned Saturday along with several scheduled for Sunday, including a noon-hour rally with Atlantic Canada's three other Liberal premiers in Moncton.
Meanwhile, Higgs also clocked hundreds of kilometres on his tour bus during the 31st day of the campaign with rallies in Cambellton, Edmundston, and Florenceville. The Tory leader also scheduled a stop in Perth-Andover.
In an emailed response, Higgs countered Gallant's assertions with his own message for voters.
"We can and must do better for New Brunswick but we need a majority government to do it," he said. "A vote for any other party than the PC Party gives Brian Gallant another four years, and we can't afford four more years of Brian Gallant."
"We want a government with representatives from every area of New Brunswick. We need your help to make that happen. No part of this province will be left behind."
The province's third parties also continued efforts to drum up support Saturday.
Green Party Leader David Coon spent the day canvassing in his Fredericton riding and was scheduled to attend a private evening event with environmentalist David Suzuki.
NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie and People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin also spent most of the day canvassing in their respective ridings.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press