As the federal election campaign officially begins, New Brunswick political leaders are lining up behind their federal counterparts, trying to get the issues that they feel are important on the agenda.
But according to JP Lewis, associate professor of politics at the University of New Brunswick, the figure at the helm of the party may be just as important to voters as policy.
“I think they’ll be similar to issues that voters outside of New Brunswick are weighing: management of the economy, environmental policies and then evaluation of leadership,” he said.
“So really an evaluation of Justin Trudeau versus Andrew Scheer. Really the Liberals and the Conservatives are the only parties in a position to form government. All the polls have been really close, but there’s some stark differences in some of the policy areas.”
The Liberals stand with the most to lose, after sweeping Atlantic Canada in 2015. When asked what the party can do to retain as many seats as possible, New Brunswick Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers says keeping the emphasis on their economic record will be key.
“We have the highest employment in decades across the country, you know, advances to the middle class, especially here in New Brunswick for middle class families,” he said.
“I think promoting that and standing on that record will serve our Liberal candidates very well.”
The Tories are working to gain back some traditional territory, particularly in the southern part of the province where three former Conservative MPs will look to regain their seats. According to Lewis Fundy Royal, Saint John-Rothesay and Southwest New Brunswick could be some of the more interesting ridings to watch come election day.
“Saint John-Rothesay, for example, had been a conservative riding before. Wayne Long has been in the news as a back-bencher going up against the government on a number of issues, but still we’d imagine that will be close,” he said.
“There’s going to be some ridings that are going to be very difficult to hold onto such as New Brunswick Southwest and Fundy Royal.”
In order to try and tip the balance, Premier Blaine Higgs says that business competitiveness and the carbon tax continue to be a key topics in industry-heavy New Brunswick.
“I am concerned about the uncompetitiveness in New Brunswick, so that’s a big issue here. That’s going to be a big impact for us because our market is 90 per cent export,” he said.
“It’s an extremely important election in my view for the country. There’s some fundamental differences in how we are able to cope and meet with the economic realities with the services we are providing.”
Others are just happy to be in the race.
“On Oct. 21, I expect to see Green MPs elected to the House of Commons. It’s very exciting,” said David Coon, leader of the New Brunswick Greens.
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Coon said he will be involved somewhat in the federal campaign and has already begun door knocking with Fredericton candidate Jenica Atwin, who could find herself in a three-way race. Hoping to build on the party’s provincial breakthrough last fall that saw three Green MLAs sent to the legislature, Coon says New Brunswick could send the first Green MP to Ottawa outside of British Columbia.
Lewis says even just one Green seat in the province would be a win for the party.
“I think the bar for the Green Party making headlines federally in New Brunswick is winning one seat. If they can break through with one seat that’s a pretty big deal,” he said.
“Barring unforeseen circumstances in terms of the popularity of the party I can’t see them walking away with more than one but maybe they have a puncher’s chance in Fredericton.”
When asked what he sees as the most important issue facing New Brunswick, Coon added federal health-care funding to the Green Party platform backbone of climate policy.
“The need for New Brunswick to get its fair share of health care funding from the federal government, because it’s not happening now,” he said.
“It’s undercutting and compromising our ability to provide good health care to New Brunswickers … and I know Green MPs will fight long and hard to ensure that the funding that fairly should be provided to New Brunswick to meet our needs here is secured.”
The People’s Alliance released a statement Wednesday saying that they will not be endorsing any federal party or candidate, but is encouraging people to get out and vote.
“As candidates from all federal parties work to gain support across the country, prior to the election, the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick encourages all eligible voters to carefully consider whom they wish to represent them, at the federal level, and then ensure they cast their ballot on election day,” reads the statement.
“The People’s Alliance of New Brunswick is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any federal party or candidate.’
The provincial NDP remains without a leader and the federal wing is still working to nominate candidates in the province a week after several former provincial candidates “defected” to the Green Party. However, a spokesperson for the party told Global News that there should be some nominations coming in the near future.
“We’ll have two candidates nominated in (New Brunswick) by the end of the day with more to be announced later in the week,” wrote Alana Cahill.
The last NDP MP for New Brunswick was Yvon Godin, who won six elections in Acadie_Bathurst between 1997 and 2015.