Shawn Graham's Liberal party will form a majority government in New Brunswick after taking 29 out of 55 ridings on Monday and leaving the Tories with 26 seats.
Graham ended seven years of Tory rule with a narrow victory Monday night that provides him with a small majority of seats in the legislature. But in a mathematical quirk, the Liberals won more seats than the Conservatives while receiving a smaller proportion of the popular vote.
The Tories garnered 47.65 per cent of the popular vote to the Liberals' 47.00 per cent.
Shawn Graham, New Brunswick's Liberal leader and premier designate, and wife Roxanne Reeves wave to supporters Monday in Rexton, N.B.
(Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
"I'm very humbled tonight," Graham said. "My mandate tonight is to change our province, to bring back the pride and restore the hope."
Graham told CBC that it was clear that New Brunswick voted for "a bold, new, activist government."
In his victory speech, the Liberal leader repeated a number of his campaign promises, listing them as initiatives to be implemented immediately. Among his pledges, Graham promised to introduce on "Day 1:"
An emotional Conservative Leader Bernard Lord, the incumbent premier, is comforted by his wife Diane as he addresses supporters in Moncton, N.B., on Monday.
(Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
- An immediate cut of 3.8 cents per litre from the provincial gasoline tax.
- A bursary of $2,000 to first-year university students.
- A plan not to include seniors' assets in calculating nursing-home fees.
- A binding commitment to provide provincial funds to clean up Saint John harbour.
Graham's win caps four weeks of carefully scripted campaigning during which the leader deflected critics by cautiously sticking to the Liberal promises on job creation, energy, education and better seniors care, and pointing to costly decisions made by the Tory government.
Bernard Lord and his Conservative team failed to convince New Brunswickers that experience, low taxes and balanced budgets are good enough reasons to reward them with a third term in government.
The NDP, under rookie leader Allison Brewer, who lost in her home district of Fredericton-Lincoln to Liberal Greg Byrne, has so far failed to elect a member and has lost four per cent of the popular vote, almost half of the party's overall support, compared with the 2003 election.
Expert blames Lord for loss
Tom Bateman, a political science professor at St. Thomas University, said Lord only has himself to blame for the loss.
"This is a very unfortunate trajectory for the premier," he said, noting that Lord did not have to call the election when he did. "Something really went very badly during the campaign. This is crushing, really."
Tory Senator Brenda Robertson watched the results roll in at PC headquarters in Moncton and was taken aback by the loss.
She says the new district boundaries likely favoured the Liberal party, as did the weak position of the NDP. However, she says, it's always a big challenge to win a third term in New Brunswick.
"A third election is really the most difficult, difficult thing to do," she says.
Public opinion polls suggested throughout the campaign that the Tories and Liberals were in a statistical dead heat, with Brewer's NDP trailing a distant third.
At dissolution, the parties were at a virtual tie in the legislature, with the Liberals holding 26 seats and the Tories 28, with one Independent.
Lord government tenuous at end
Lord's majority had been teetering on the edge of collapse for months, 3½ years into his second mandate.
His hold on power was predicted to vanish this autumn, with the resignation of Tantramar MLA Peter Mesheau. Lord did not want to risk a byelection or begin a new session of the legislature with a minority, and so he rolled the dice on a general election.
The election call in mid-August ended weeks of speculation about when the call would come. Ministers spent most of June and July streaking across New Brunswick making more than $100 million worth of spending announcements.
Boundary changes may have had effect
Analysts suggested that the new district boundaries, established last spring, may have given the Liberals the edge in this election. Although there are still 55 districts on the new electoral map, almost every riding was changed to some extent.
Many of the changes were minor, but since the electoral boundaries commission wanted to reflect the changing demographics of New Brunswick, two rural seats were lost and two urban seats were created.
At age 38, Graham becomes one of the oldest premiers recently to win the job. Lord was 33 when he became premier in 1999.
Elected leader of the Liberals in 2002, Graham's party nearly toppled Lord's Tories in 2003 when a wave of voter anger over auto insurance costs swept the province.
Graham is also the youngest of the leaders in this campaign. He represents the second generation in his family to win the riding of Kent for the Liberals.
His father, Alan Graham, was 25 when first elected in 1967. He held the riding for 31 years until his retirement. The torch was passed to his son in a 1998 byelection.
Graham grew up in the small Kent County town of Rexton. He attended the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University, earning degrees in physical education and education. He is married to Roxanne Reeves.
|Last Update:September 19, 1:13:13 AM ADT|