Kevin Vickers says he is retiring as ambassador to Ireland, will return to N.B.

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Former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers says he is retiring next month as Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, potentially setting himself up for a bid to become New Brunswick Liberal leader.

Former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms is a possible candidate in Liberal leadership race

Former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers says he is retiring next month as Canada’s ambassador to Ireland and returning to New Brunswick, where he has been talked about as a potential candidate for the Liberal Party leadership. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers says he is retiring next month as Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, potentially setting himself up for a bid to become New Brunswick Liberal leader.

Vickers, hailed as a hero for helping to end the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, says in a Facebook post Friday that he’ll retire from the position effective March 2 and return to his home in Trout Brook, northwest of Miramichi.

Vickers has been touted as a possible candidate for the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberal Party to replace Brian Gallant.

In December, Vickers indicated an interest in the job, but at the time said he was a long ways from making a decision.

The New Brunswick Liberals will choose a new leader on June 22 in Saint John.

Vickers, who has held the ambassador post since January 2015, says Ireland is the home of his ancestors and serving Canada as ambassador has been a special privilege.

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Kevin Vickers seen as national hero, but considered an outsider as he considers political bid: pundits

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Kevin Vickers has been described as a national hero for his role in stopping a gunman’s attack on Parliament Hill in 2014, but New Brunswick pundits say he’s largely seen as an outsider as he considers a political bid in his home province.

Vickers, who has served as Canada’s ambassador to Ireland for the past four years, announced this week he may be interested in seeking the leadership of New Brunswick’s Liberal party.


READ MORE:
Hero of 2014 Parliament Hill attack says he’s considering a run for New Brunswick Liberal leadership

The out-of-the-blue statement came days after former premier Brian Gallant confirmed he would be stepping down as Liberal leader sooner than expected.

“It was a surprise,” said J.P. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, adding there were no previous indications Vickers had partisan leanings.

Though Vickers could be considered “almost a historic figure,” he doesn’t have a much of a presence in the province, Lewis said in an interview.

“For most people, he’s a public figure from one moment in time. That’s it.”

On Oct. 22, 2014, Vickers was serving as sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons when he fired the shots that killed a man armed with a .30-30 rifle. Michael Zihaf Bibeau had barged into Centre Block on Parliament Hill after killing honour guard reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

Vickers was appointed ambassador to Ireland by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in January 2015.

On Monday, Vickers told The Canadian Press he’s a “long ways from making a decision” about contesting the Liberal leadership, noting that he’s been in public service for nearly 43 years.

Born and raised in Newcastle, N.B., which is now part of the City of Miramichi, Vickers worked as an RCMP officer for 29 years before joining security staff at the House of Commons in 2005.

“It’s a long haul,” he said in an interview Monday from Trout Brook, N.B.

WATCH: Former sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers awarded Star of Courage for actions taken during Ottawa shooting






Vickers has deep roots in New Brunswick. His father, Bill, helped establish the Northumberland co-op dairy in the province decades ago.

However, Vickers has spent many years working outside New Brunswick.

“He has largely been away for so long he is an outsider,” Mario Levesque, a politics professor at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., said in an email.

“At best, he has drawn some media attention to the Liberal party … They now have a ‘star’ candidate media-wise, but thin on the politics side.”

Still, Levesque said Vickers’ outsider status may not diminish his political capital.

“It is acceptable to move away and come back if you are a Maritimer,” said Levesque. “After all, people are our No. 1 export.”

Other political observers say Vickers’ absence from New Brunswick’s political scene could be his greatest strength.

“On the plus side, he is an unknown political quantity and perhaps the Liberal party wants a shakeup with some new people and fresh ideas,” Jamie Gillies, a political science professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said in an email.

Roger Ouellette, a public studies professor at the Universite de Moncton, suggested the Liberals would be wise to seek a leader from outside the political establishment and, preferably, a bilingual anglophone.

“He will fit the bill,” Ouellette said, noting the party is keenly aware that it has lost much of its support in largely English-speaking areas of the province.

“Maybe it’s a good thing to have a fresh face, and a fresh way to look at the issues.”


READ MORE:
Kevin Vickers talks about his emotions after Parliament Hill shooting

Lewis agreed, saying Vickers’ experience stands in contrast to that of Gallant, who was widely considered a career politician by the time many voters turned their backs on the province’s entrenched two-party system in last September’s provincial election.

Last week, Gallant said the party needed to move on after winning just 21 seats – one fewer than the Tories. The Liberals relinquished their hold on power in November after losing a confidence vote in the legislature.

Like Vickers, Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs is considered a political outsider, having worked at Irving Oil for 33 years before turning to politics four months after he retired in 2010.

“Maybe someone like Vickers, an outsider, is a good match to Higgs,” said Lewis. “That’s what the Liberals need to challenge Higgs in the next election.”

No candidates have entered the Liberal leadership race, though several names are circulating.

Vickers has already met with at least two members of the Liberal caucus – former seniors minister Lisa Harris and former health minister Benoit Bourque.

Bourque said Vickers would bring a “wealth of experience” to the party.

He said Vickers was not actively recruited as a candidate.

“I wouldn’t say anybody went after anybody. It kind of just organically happened.”

Higgs’ minority government is relying on support from a third party – the right-leaning People’s Alliance, led by Kris Austin. But that arrangement is set to expire in less than 18 months.

That means an election could be less than two years away.

“We are very mindful that we are in a peculiar minority government situation,” Bourque said. “Our leadership situation tends to be a bit more pressing … The ball is in Mr. Vickers’ court.”

According to federal rules, Vickers must get permission from the Public Service Commission if he plans to be a candidate in an election. However, the commission says seeking the leadership of a party is considered a “non-candidacy political activity,” which does not require permission.

However, the commission says all diplomats must carry out their public duties in a politically impartial manner and “should not carry out political activities if they would cast doubt on the integrity or impartiality of their office.”

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Kevin Vickers considering run for New Brunswick Liberal leadership

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Kevin Vickers, who became Canada’s ambassador to Ireland after being hailed as a hero for helping to end the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, is considering a move into politics.

The former sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons said he’s considering a run for Liberal leadership in his native New Brunswick, though he’s a « long ways from making a decision. »

Lisa Harris, Liberal MLA for Miramichi Bay-Neguac, said she met with Vickers recently and believes he would be an exciting candidate for the party’s leadership.

Former premier Brian Gallant announced recently that he’ll be stepping down as Liberal leader earlier than planned, saying the party needs to move on.

In an interview from Trout Brook, N.B., Vickers said he wants to carry on the legacy of his father, Bill, who began the Northumberland Co-Op Dairy decades ago.

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