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New Brunswick election nears finish line with final day of campaigning

Last Updated Sep 23, 2018 at 6:20 pm EST

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant, left, and his wife Karine Lavoie are joined on the campaign bus by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan and Intergovernmental Affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc in Moncton, N.B. on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett

FREDERICTON – Atlantic Canada’s four Liberal premiers don’t always see eye to eye on major issues but the four were united on Sunday with the message to get out the Liberal vote in Monday’s New Brunswick election.

“Keep it up, and double-down over the next 24 hours. We can take no vote for granted,” Brian Gallant told supporters at a rally in Moncton Sunday.

He is looking to become the first New Brunswick premier to win a second term since 2003.

The month-long New Brunswick election campaign neared the finish line with a final day of campaigning in what’s seen as a tightening race between the rival Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.

The possibility of vote splitting, as the result of support for third parties, was a common point of discussion among the parties over the weekend.

“Vote splitting could have us waking up Tuesday morning with a Blaine Higgs and Conservative government, maybe propped up by a third party,” Gallant warned. “That, in my opinion, would be the wrong direction for our province.”

In spite of their differences on issues such as the federal carbon tax and softwood lumber, the four Liberal premiers rallied around Gallant.

“There will be close ridings. There will be close votes. There may be people who don’t get around to getting out to vote without the effort that everyone in this room will give,” said Prince Edward Island’s Wade MacLauchlan.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Dwight Ball told the crowd gathered at the Moncton Press Club that he won his first election campaign by just 16 votes.

“So look around this room. It’s easy to wrap your arms around 16 people. That’s the difference tomorrow in some of those ridings,” Ball said. “Let’s not wake up on Tuesday morning and say, ‘Could we have found 16 more votes?'”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil told the crowd that the electorate is volatile and they shouldn’t take any riding for granted.

“I need you to give every ounce of energy you have right to the final tick of the clock to get those votes out. I believe there are more Liberal votes in New Brunswick for tomorrow. The question is, are we up to the challenge to get them out?,” he said prompting the crowd to begin chanting “Four more years.”

At a campaign rally in Fredericton, Tory Leader Blaine Higgs was asked about Gallant calling in help from his Atlantic counterparts.

“It’s desperation,” said Higgs. “(Gallant) brings in political friends from the other provinces, but are they going to stay and help him? Is that the plan if he wins?”

Higgs scheduled a series of rallies through the central and southern part of the province as he looks to close the gap.

He appeared before several dozen enthusiastic supporters at a Fredericton hotel ballroom along with six Tory candidates from the area.

Higgs touched on familiar themes to applause from the crowd, touting a fiscally conservative agenda aimed at bringing back a provincial economy he said lags behind the rest of Canada.

He said it’s a formula that will put the party over the top at the polls on Monday.

“I’m really excited about the potential for tomorrow,” he said. “I’m excited because we are going for a majority government despite what anyone might say.”

The economy and jobs, along with fiscal management, have been key issues during the campaign, while the question of language in the officially bilingual province also played a lower grade role on the hustings.

Gallant spent the rest of the day attending rallies along the east coast of the province, ending with the Liberal’s traditional final rally in Neguac.

The campaign buses have to be off the roads and out of sight by midnight, prior to the start of election day, and have to remain parked until after the polls are closed Monday night.

Higgs toured the northern half of the province on Saturday, saying a vote for any party other than the Tories will put Brian Gallant back in the premier’s office.

Green Party Leader David Coon was in his Fredericton riding Sunday as was People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin, while NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie spent the day in her Saint John riding.

The third parties aren’t expected to make big inroads Monday, although they may play a factor in vote-splitting in some of the province’s 49 ridings.

Going into the election campaign, the seat count in the legislature was 24 Liberals, 21 Progressive Conservatives, one Green, one Independent and two vacancies.