As New Brunswick’s political parties prepare for the tabling of the provincial budget next week, the New Brunswick NDP held a press conference to provide an update on the status of the party and weigh in on the leadership of premier Blaine Higgs.
The interim leader of the party is calling on Higgs to resign over the handling of reforms to the education and health systems, the ongoing labour dispute with nursing home workers and the appointment of Kevin Cormier as the head of the province’s public library system.
The NDP is currently in the process of selecting a new leader to replace Jennifer McKenzie and has no seats in the legislature. But Mackenzie Thomason says the premier should still take the party’s voice into account.
“Five per cent of the population put their support in the NDP in the last election and I think that is a significant voting block and I think that he should take words of all New Brunswickers into consideration when doing his decision making,” Thomason said.
“I don’t believe that tomorrow he’s going to come out and resign because of this, but I believe it should give him cause for concern.”
Both of New Brunswick’s other third parties, the Greens and the People’s Alliance more than doubled the five per cent of the popular vote received by the NDP on their way to three seats a piece in the legislature. The Alliance took 12.5 per cent and the Greens 11.8 per cent of the popular vote.
The party has not sent an MLA to the legislature since Elizabeth Weir in 2003, but Thomason insists that the party remains relevant.
“Just because we had one bad election cycle, I don’t think that’s indicative of a future trend,” he said.
“Voters in New Brunswick are still very confident that the NDP can represent them. Again, we did get 5 per cent of the vote, and I keep pointing that number out not to gloat, but to say that people in New Brunswick are still supportive, are still confident in the job that we can do.”
Fundraising numbers paint a mixed picture for the party. In 2018, the year of the last general election, they took in $103,109 in contributions, down significantly from the $250,223 brought in during the 2014 election year.
The Alliance received $124,569 in 2018 while the Greens raked in $302,748.
Over the first six months of 2019 the party fared better in relation to its third party rivals. The NDP raised $15,696, less than the Greens’ $23,222, but more than the Alliance’s $10,965.
When it comes to the party’s ability to run a provincial campaign Thomason remains confident.
“If a snap election comes I think the NDP will do a fantastic job. We have resources as far as people power goes, we are spread across the entire province,” he said.
“I think running a provincial campaign with those very dedicated and hardworking people is not going to be a problem.”
Although Thomason insists they are ready for an election the party currently has yet to nominate any candidates, and the party’s leadership convention is not scheduled until June. Candidates for byelections in St. Croix and Shediac-Bay Dieppe have also yet to be selected.
When asked how the party will look to rebuild support in the province Thomason said they have spent the last several months addressing the party’s internal structure and communications strategy.
“I think it’s really about making sure that we are true to our policies, that we are being consistent and we are making sure that New Brunswickes are aware that we are here for them,” he said.
“Going forward we have to work at bridging that communication gap with the voters because I think going forward there is definitely a voice for the NDP within the legislature, within New Brunswick.”
The leadership convention is scheduled for June 6 and the party says it has received three applications.