"The timing just seemed to line up," said former Tobique-Mactaquac MP T.J. Harvey, the day after becoming the first official candidate for the vacant New Brunswick Liberal leadership position.
After serving a single term as the MP for the vast rural riding in western New Brunswick, Harvey opted not to re-offer in October 2019, expressing a desire to return to the private sector.
While returning to the private sector, which includes running a consulting business, Harvey, born and raised in northern Carleton County, said he long held the intention of returning to politics on a provincial level.
He said he didn't expect the opportunity to arise now but believes he has plenty to offer both the Liberal party and the province.
When Kevin Vickers resigned immediately following the party's defeat in the September 2020 election, Harvey said he considered a run at filling the vacancy.
Harvey said he is not the type to stand back and wait for things to happen.
"As time went on, I just felt a stronger need to bring my name forward and take a run at this. The party needs, and the province needs, strong leadership. I felt I had something to offer," he said.
Harvey said strong leadership requires a collaborative approach that builds on the strengths of an entire team.
"I" m not someone that pretends to have all the answers," he said. "I certainly don't. What I am really good at is asking the right questions and then working with these people to come up with the solutions."
Harvey said his work in the private sector and as Tobique-Mataquac's representative in Ottawa demonstrated a consistent, collaborative approach to creating teams of experts to meet challenges and take advantage of opportunities. New Brunswick, he said, offers plenty of both, which require action immediately.
As the world transitions to a green economy, Harvey said, the door is open for New Brunswick to be at the forefront of those changes.
"I think in the long term, New Brunswick could be a leader in the industry supporting green-grown technologies," he said.
Harvey said vast new horizons await those who are ready to take advantage.
"We don't even know all the opportunities that are out there," he said. "I think what we need to do is to start wrapping our heads around what possibilities are in sync with our demographics and historical industries in this province and how we can take advantage of those opportunities to bring more opportunities."
Harvey said meeting the province's formidable challenges and securing new opportunities requires a different political style that limits political divisions and promotes a collective focus on what benefits all New Brunswickers.
"I've always been a firm believer that divisive, partisan politics is distractive, and it's unproductive. It doesn't serve the common interest of the people well, and it's something we, as elected officials, must take every opportunity to refrain from engaging in," Harvey said.
He said he believes most elected officials he met at all levels of government have their communities' best interests at heart.
Harvey said he is aware of the sharp divisions within New Brunswick, whether it's north-south, urban-rural or French-English, but noted all sectors, in the end, share common goals.
He said the day-to-day aspirations of people, whether they live in Shippagan or Juniper, whether they live in a major city or a rural area, or whether they speak English or French, are similar.
While he's worked hard for years to improve his fluency in French, Harvey admits there's a way to go, but he will continue to work hard. He said he supports bilingualism and believes New Brunswick benefits as an officially bilingual province.
"Bilingualism is a great opportunity for New Brunswick. It's always been a great opportunity," he said.
He said the province needs to take a hard look at what's required to develop that working relationship between the linguistic communities.
Harvey believes his rural roots, combined with his working experience in large-scale agriculture, transportation, construction and federal government experience, provide a solid foundation for his leadership aspirations.
Harvey said being the first candidate in the race delivers both positive and negative elements, but he saw no reason in delaying his announcement.
"I" m also a firm believer that you shouldn't put off 'till tomorrow what you can do today," he said.
Harvey said he would now criss-cross the province to gather feedback on what they expect from the government.
"My main priority right now is reaching out, engaging with as many New Brunswickers as I can, inside the party and outside the party, north or south, east or west, anglophone or francophone, to see what their priorities are and how they feel government can do a better job at representing their interests," he said.
Harvey expressed admiration for the man he's hoping to replace at the helm of the New Brunswick Liberals, saying he and Vickers shared many similar goals for the province.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Vickers. His integrity and belief in the province," Harvey said.
He said the former Liberal leader took over the party's leadership at a tremendously difficult time, noting the arrival of COVID as an example.
"Those are circumstances he couldn't control.," Harvey said.
While they share similar goals for the province, Harvey said he and Vickers bring different qualities to the leadership position.
"We are different people with different backgrounds," he said.
Harvey said the New Brunswick Liberal Party has yet to set a date for the convention, noting the party executive would form a committee to work on the event's details.
In the meantime, Harvey said, he'll travel the province to get to know the people and allow the people to get to know him.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun