Preliminary efforts to establish a new Memramcook-Tantramar Liberal Association were aborted Monday night when it was learned the meeting had not been advertised in the Sackville Tribune-Post as required by the constitution.
The meeting had been called by MLA Bernard LeBlanc at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre and 40 delegates, mostly from the Memramcook section of the newly-formed riding, showed up only to learn there would be no business conducted other than selection of a couple of delegates to serve with the two former riding presidents to prepare for the next meeting on Oct. 22. At that time it is hoped to create an executive, which will represent the far-flung region that runs from Cape Tormentine through the Memramcook Valley.
Former Tantramar president Jamie Smith and former Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe president Norbert LeBlanc will be joined by Beth Barczyk and Dorothy Theriault as an interim executive.
The new riding was created as the Alward Government voted to reduce the number of seats from 55 to 49 and to ensure an equal balance of voters in each. Tantramar, alone, has been well under the ceiling for some time, while Memramcook had been in one that had grown too large. As Tantramar was at the end of the province, there was no place to go other than west and so Memramcook was added.
Speaking to the gathering, Norbert LeBlanc quashed any thoughts that either Sackville or Memramcook is trying to take over, saying "the only thing we all want is to take over the riding for our party."
He went on to point out there is a history of good relations between the two areas - primarily Francophone in Memramcook and mostly Anglophone in Tantramar - with people from his area making use of Sackville physicians, the hospital and shopping in town.
Bernard LeBlanc said he will offer as a candidate in the enlarged riding and would welcome others to compete for the right to represent the huge district in Fredericton.
The MLA outpolled the opposition in the Memramcook section of his riding by more than two to one in the last election for a Liberal seat. However, the opposite has occurred in Tantramar, where the Conservatives have ruled since Marilyn Trenholme resigned her seat in 1997 to accept the position of lieutenant governor. Since then the Conservatives have won four consecutive elections, with the closest race occurring in 1997 when Peter Mesheau defeated Ross Monk by 39 votes.
While it has remained a Blue riding for 17 years, it had shifted hands previously, with Bob Hall winning for the NDP in the ’80s, followed by Trenholme in 1986 during the McKenna sweep of all 55 ridings. Mike Olscamp is the current member, holding down a major portfolio in the Alward government.