Kevin Vickers announces he'll seek New Brunswick Liberal leadership

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.

The former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms announced Friday in Newcastle, N.B., that he is seeking the Liberal leadership in New Brunswick.

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"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," he told a crowded hall.

"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.

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.

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 as a Mountie 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.

Vickers 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 served as sergeant-at-arms for the House of Commons between 2006 and 2015.

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 mention the event during Friday's announcement.

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

Other Liberal leadership contenders include: Rene Ephestion, leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Multicultural Inclusion Commission, and Gaetan Pelletier, a businessman from Charlo.

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.

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