Kevin Vickers: a hero to leader of a party?

Kevin Vickers: de héros à chef de parti?

Kevin Vickers has gone from anonymity to almost total to the status of national hero when he helped to neutralize an armed man who was introduced to the Parliament in 2014. But then he was thinking to replace Brian Gallant at the head of the liberal Party of New Brunswick, pundits believe that it is widely regarded as a “foreigner” in his native province.

A few days after former prime minister Gallant has confirmed that he will leave office of liberal leader earlier than expected, Mr. Vickers, ambassador of Canada to Ireland for the past four years, announced this week that he would be interested in the position.

This statement has surprised the political scientist J. P. Lewis, of the University of New Brunswick at Saint John, who knew no political allegiance special to this former sergeant-at-arms of the House of commons, became a hero overnight. Although Mr. Vickers can be considered now as “a character in canadian history”, it has not been very present in his home province, was recalled by Mr. Lewis.

On October 22, 2014, the sergeant-at-arms fired on a man armed with a rifle in parliament. Michael Zihaf Bibeau had burst into the Centre block after killing a bit further down, the reservist Nathan Cirillo, who stood guard at the national war memorial of Canada. The parliamentarians he will be eternally grateful, and the prime minister, Stephen Harper, was appointed ambassador to Ireland three months later.

Mr. Vickers was born and grew up in Newcastle, which is now part of the municipality of Miramichi. He was a police officer within the royal Canadian mounted police for 29 years before joining the staff of the security of the House of commons in 2005. Mr. Vickers has deep roots in New Brunswick: his father, Bill Vickers, has participated in the installation in the province of the cooperative dairy Northumberland several decades ago.

But “he is absent for so long in New Brunswick as it is considered an “alien” (outsider)”, said in an e-mail Mario Levesque, a political science professor at Mount Allison University in Sackville. The political scientist admits, however, that this status of”foreigner” may not diminish its assets policies. “After all, people are our first export in the Maritimes.”

Not from the seraglio

Other political observers even argue that the absence of Mr. Vickers of the political scene in new brunswick could be on the contrary, his main asset: he is not a product of the seraglio.

“You don’t know anything of his political views, and the liberal Party may wish to rebuild with new people and new ideas,” said Jamie Gillies, a political science professor at the university of St. Thomas of Fredericton.

Roger Ouellette, a professor at the higher School of public studies from the University of Moncton, believes that the liberals would be well-advised to look for a leader that is not already linked to the”establishment party” – and preferably an English-speaking bilingual. Professor Ouellette reminds us that liberals are perfectly aware that they have lost much of their support in September last year in regions mainly anglophones from the province.

The political scientist Lewis agrees: the experience of Mr. Vickers contrasts with that of Brian Gallant, who was widely regarded as a “career politician”, at a time when many voters have turned their backs on the two-party system is well established in this province.

As Mr. Vickers, the new prime minister, progressive conservative Blaine Higgs, is considered also as an ‘outsider’ politics: he worked for 33 years within the oil Irving, before entering politics four months after his retirement, in 2010.

No candidate has officially declared so far in the leadership race of the liberal Party, even if several names are circulating already. Mr. Vickers met with at least two members – former ministers Lisa Harris and Benoît Bourque.

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