I’ve been following the results of the New Brunswick provincial election with great interest. For those who are unfamiliar with this Maritime Canadian province it is one of Canada’s four original provinces and it borders Maine.
The story tonight is that the results are up in the air. A new electronic tabulation system has not been in sync with the hand counted ballots so Elections New Brunswick has halted the process until further notice.
David Alward’s Progressive Conservative government (which came to power in 2010) went into the election very unpopular and was expected to lose decisively to the Liberals led by 32-year old Brian Gallant. However, Alward has been promising to develop the province’s burgeoning shale gas industry much to the dismay of the anti-fracking crowd. But it has helped the Tories have a resurgence in the polls. For their part, Gallant’s Liberals have promised to spend $900 million on improving infrastructure. In other words, it’s the New Brunswick version of the Stimulus Bill. In recent days, the Liberals’ credibility took a hit when Gallant did a disastrous interview with the CBC last week in which he botched his party’s own tax policy.
Despite this setback the Liberals could slide by and win a narrow majority government. Before Elections New Brunswick halted the counting, the Liberals were elected or leading in 25 ridings while the Tories were elected or leading in 23 ridings. Green Party Leader David Coon was leading in the remaining seat in the provincial capital of Fredericton. This is one tight election and if the numbers move then Coon could emerge as a kingmaker. If that’s the case then I can’t imagine a scenario in which he wouldn’t back the Liberals.
As for the NDP, they were once again shut out despite the efforts of NDP Leader Dominic Cardy to move to the center. Cardy would finish second to the Tory candidate in the Fredericton constituency in which he ran. He promptly announced his resignation as party leader. (I should disclose here that Cardy and I worked together on Alexa McDonough’s successful campaign for the Federal NDP leadership in 1995. A few years later, he would help me move to Boston).
Cardy has long been an acolyte of Tony Blair much to the annoyance of many NDP activists who find this insufficiently left-wing. These activists reacted either by voting Liberal or Green or staying home altogether. Although the NDP received more votes than ever before they still had nothing to show for it and Cardy walked the plank. The NDP hasn’t had a seat in the provincial legislature in nearly a decade when Elizabeth Weir led the party.
The question now is how long will it take before they can resume counting the ballots in New Brunswick. When that question is answered then we will know if the Tories managed to hang on against the odds or if New Brunswick will choose to change governments for the second election in a row.
Who ever said Canadian politics was boring?
UPDATE: The count eventually resumed and the results are as follows: Liberals 27, Progressive Conservatives 21, Green 1, NDP 0. It appears that Brian Gallant will become Canada’s youngest Premier. However, David Alward has not conceded defeat and the Tories may demand a recount. The plot thickens.