Saint Andrews – They say the last week of an election is when the real action starts, and that was proven correct on Labour Day Monday, when Saint Croix candidate John Gardner was removed from the Liberal party after a series of social media comments came to light over the weekend.
The comments, viewed as homophobic, were found on the heels of PC candidate, Roland Michaud, being removed from the race in his riding of Victoria-la-Vallee when a meme condoning violence against transgender individuals was found on Michaud’s Facebook page.
“John Gardner will no longer be running under the Liberal banner in the riding of St. Croix,” said provincial Liberal leader Kevin Vickers in a statement released Monday evening.
“Previous comments made by Mr. Gardner on social media are offensive to both women and the LGBTQ2I+ community and not in keeping with the values of the New Brunswick Liberal Party. As a result, we will be cutting ties with the candidate.
“It is unfortunate the people of St. Croix will not have the choice to vote Liberal in this important election. But once the comments came to light we quickly informed the candidate we would be moving ahead without him.”
The removal of Gardner as the Liberal candidate at this point in the race means the residents of the Saint Croix riding will not have the opportunity to vote Liberal in the September 14 provincial election.
It does not, however, mean residents cannot still vote for Gardner. Undaunted, he is moving forward with his campaign, and running as an independent.
“It has been an interesting period running for public office,” said Gardner in a Facebook post late Monday.
“My comments, while on the outset, appear to be homophobic were pointing out the way in which we all fight for our rights, and sometimes conflict with what others consider to be their rights.
“I myself am part of the LGBT community, and work in a business where we fly the rainbow flag, not as a right, but as an identity.
“When I was asked to run for the Liberals, I told the leader I was not a Liberal. I am from Saint Croix, and it was Saint Croix I would always represent.
“I am pleased to announce that I will run as the candidate from Saint Croix. An independent candidate who will represent you. Best of luck to my fellow candidates, as we continue this journey to the end.”
Votes already cast for Gardner will remain in his name, and are not considered spoiled. Those votes simply no longer include a vote for the Liberal party, but for Gardner as an independent candidate.