Update (9/22/14): The results are in, and it’s a disaster! Ridings have been called back, special ballots consulted, storage chips on the voting machines are broken, and several ridings have differences of only a few hundred votes! Right now it looks like a Liberal majority with a single Green party victory, but that can actually become a tie or a PC majority with very little movement.
Friends, it is time for the 38th New Brunswick General election, after the months of turmoil and general sadness that has plagued the Loyalist Province.
Last time, Progressive-Conservative David Alward won 42 seats and 48.9% of the popular vote, decimating Liberal Shawn Graham who only won 13 seats and 42.4% of the popular vote. Yes, in New Brunswick 6.5% of the vote can correspond to a difference of 35 out of 55 of the seats in the legislature. Democracy! The NDP candidate, Roger Duguary, won 10.4% of the vote, but no seats.
In June of this year, the Liberals were polling with 53%, to the PCs with 28%, indicating a landslide come today. Yet, the PCs and NDP have been gaining on the Liberals steadily this month, Forum says that Alward and Liberal leader Brian Gallant are tied 40-40, and some polls even predict the PCs winning. After Gallant gave a disastrous interview with CBC and tanked the debates, anything can happen tonight. Let’s meet the candidates.
David Alward (Progressive Conservative)
The American interloper is the incumbent, who came to Nackawic for high school has been Premier since 2010. After supporting hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), and deregulating forestry laws, voters were ready to tell Alward to frack off, as shown by a myriad of opinion polls over the last year showing the Progressive-Conservatives down 25% in the polls, and his personal approval rating cratering at 28%. Even in his move to expand prescription drug coverage to the uninsured, he ended up raising healthcare’s budget less than promised during the 2010 campaign.
Rainbow Gate: Alward prevented a Fredericton high school from flying a rainbow flag during their school’s Pride Week because it was an unauthorized flag (the flag flew for the last two years prior with no issues. Students made an online protest against the Premier’s decision and it got the Premier some negative media attention.
“We envision New Brunswick as Canada’s next energy powerhouse and Saint John as the anchor of that powerhouse.” (April 2013)
Brian Gallant (Liberal)
He’s the young and handsome new Liberal leader that everyone is worried may be inexperienced, but they love him anyway. Yes, that’s Brian Gallant, who looks like this:
He was elected MLA for the first time in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a heart-throb. After the party suffered heavy losses in 2010, he wrote a paper recommending the youthful renewal of the New Brunswick Liberals, and became leader in 2012 before he was even elected. He ran and won in Kent during the 2013 by-election after the former leader, Shawn Graham, stepped down.
Forestellgate: In an interview with Harry Forestell of the CBC on the morning of September 17th, Forestell asked Gallant about his new plan to raise taxes on the rich (those earning more than $160,000), which only affects 200 people according to Gallant. Forestell informed Gallant that his proposed increase would create an effective combined income tax rate of 54.75%, the highest in the country. Gallant objected, saying that his number would make the tax rate less than Quebec’s. He then promised to increase the debt and shut down active fracking projects that have already been licensed. It was all very strange. The first version of the interview can be seen here.
After the interview, the Liberal war room realized that Gallant had gotten everything wrong, and they asked if they could redo the interview before it aired. Forestell began the second interview by asking: “Why is there so much confusion in your campaign about such an important platform plank?” Gallant responded by saying “I take full responsibility, a staffer was working until 4 am to provide us with this,” and that he would manually offset anyone whose tax rate was higher than Quebec’s under the proposed increase. Also, 600 people will be affected, not 200. Forestell offered that if a staffer was up until 4am, five days before the election, “it sounds like you’re making policy up on the fly […] you’re still crunching numbers today?” Another burn, “if you couldn’t get that figure right, why should voters trust any of your tax policy?” was answered with “because we’ve been very clear and very transparent.” You can watch that trainwreck here.
Inexperience: He’s been an elected member of government for literally 17 months.
“I will be singing terribly.” (at a local Jam session in 2012)
Dominic Cardy (NDP)
The English interloper is the third party leader, which hasn’t held a seat since 2003. He was acclaimed leader of the New Brunswick NDP after his only opponent was disqualified. The NDP hopes to win a seat this election, and with upwards of 11% of the vote, it should be possible. Also, NBNDP is a moutful to say aloud.
Hitlergate: This week, some Dippers began sharing one of those Hitler-parody videos representing the New Brunswick Liberals (with one of the MLAs portraying Hitler). While Stephen Harper has also been the subject of these at least three times, Gallant was offended and demanded an apology.
“I slowly ran my finger around the dent in the chipboard wall and imagined my friend’s pain.” (Talking about bullying)
Anything can happen tonight (the NDP might even win a seat)! Results start coming in at 8PM. We’ll be watching.
With The True North Times files.