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New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs confirmed Friday he won’t call an election in 2023, ending weeks of speculation that the governing Progressive Conservatives would go to the polls almost a year early.

The premier had repeatedly said he needed a new mandate to quell the political drama that had gripped the province for months, but he squelched election rumours when reporters pressed him about the issue outside the legislature.

“There’s not going to be any fall election,” he said. “There won’t be any election in 2023. I guess that ends that speculation and we can move on.”

The premier, however, said he really was “ready to pull the trigger” on an early vote in recent weeks.

The province’s fixed-date election law states that the next election must be called by Oct. 21, 2024.

Higgs, who has served as premier since 2018, said the recent political turmoil hasn’t been good for the province or his majority government. “I’ve certainly gone through my challenges internally over the last several months,” he said. “It’s been quite a public event.”

In June of this year, two of Higgs’s cabinet ministers quit, citing his inflexible leadership style and changes the majority government made to the province’s policy on gender identity in schools. Six Tory members of the legislature voted with the Opposition to call for an external review of the policy change, and Higgs responded by dropping dissenters from cabinet.

Under the changes to Policy 713, students under 16 who are exploring their gender identity must get their parents’ consent before teachers can use their preferred first names or pronouns at school – a reversal of the previous practice.

Some Progressive Conservative party members called for Higgs to step down, but they failed to trigger a leadership review and dropped their demand in August.

The Tory government survived a non-confidence vote last week, and Higgs hinted that the province should be ready for an election at any time. However, he drew attention to the fact that the six Tory rebels had voted against the Opposition Liberals’ non-confidence amendment to the government’s throne speech.

On Friday, Higgs said it was time to “get back to focusing on the priorities of government.” He mentioned affordability, health care and the fact that his government is in the last year of its mandate.

When asked if he had regained the stability he had been seeking, Higgs said: “The stability is an ongoing issue. Will it continue? I’m hopeful it will.”

As for an early vote in the spring, Higgs laughed at the suggestion. “Lets just focus on a more stable government and moving the bar on big issues for our province.”

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