5 ridings to watch in the N.B. campaign
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 | 8:25 PM ET
By Daniel McHardie, CBC News
Close public opinion polls, two upstart parties and new political faces could create a handful of gripping storylines that could decide the Sept. 27 election.
The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are neck-and-neck in the most recent public opinion polls and the New Democratic Party has shown momentum in the last year. The province's traditional parties are also facing the possibility of vote splitting because of the rise of the Green party and the People's Alliance of New Brunswick.
The 2003 and 2006 elections have both ended in close results and the fate of the government could have easily switched based on a handful of ridings.
Some of the most interesting races in 2010 may also be shaped by pertinent local issues and compelling personalities. Each of the 55 ridings holds interesting local races, but here are five that are worth watching as Sept. 27 gets closer.
Tory Nancy McKay is running for the third time against Liberal Brian Kenny in Bathurst. (CBC)Liberal Brian Kenny and Progressive Conservative Nancy McKay will face off against each other for the third consecutive election in the northern riding of Bathurst.
Kenny and McKay have treated Bathurst, and political watchers from across the province, to two of the closest races in the 2003 and 2006 election campaigns. Kenny has emerged victorious, barely, in each election.
Bathurst is a riding that is long considered a safe Liberal seat given that no Tory has been elected in the city riding or its larger, regional predecessor going back until the 1930s. But McKay has been a formidable opponent and came within 94 votes in 2003 and 187 votes in 2006 of breaking that decades-long electoral drought.
Kenny capitalized on the auto insurance anger in 2003 and perhaps used the power of incumbency along with any Liberal momentum to win re-election in 2006. Now, Kenny is a two-term MLA and has served in cabinet for the last two years.
McKay has just come off of a stint as the chief operating officer for the IAAF world junior track championships that was held in Moncton.
NDP Leader Roger Duguay hopes to win in the Tracadie-Sheila riding, allowing the party to have its first seat since Elizabeth Weir resigned in 2004. (CBC)New Democratic Party Leader Roger Duguay is hoping that Tracadie-Sheila voters will elect him as the party's first MLA in the legislature since Elizabeth Weir resigned in 2004.
Duguay will be squaring off against first-term Tory MLA Claude Landry.
Duguay does not live in the Acadian peninsula riding, although the former priest resides nearby. The NDP leader placed a close third in the 2006 election when he was running in his home riding of Miramichi Bay-Neguac, which borders Tracadie-Sheila.
Landry won the riding in 2006 after serving as the executive assistant to Elvy Robichaud, who held the seat since a byelection in 1995. Until Robichaud gained control over the seat, it had been a traditionally Liberal seat.
In this campaign, the Liberals are fielding Norma McGraw, a local nurse.
The strength of having the NDP leader as a candidate in the riding, along with a Tory incumbent in a formerly Liberal riding could make for close race.
Liberal Jack Keir narrowly won the Fundy-River Valley seat in 2006. He has spent the last four years as one of the Liberal government's most high-profile cabinet ministers. (CBC)Liberals wiped almost every Tory off the electoral map in the Saint John area in 2003 but Liberal Jack Keir was still only to escape with a narrow victory of 206 votes in Fundy-River Valley.
Four years later, Keir has the advantage of having served as one of Shawn Graham's most visible cabinet ministers as New Brunswick's energy minister. Keir has been front-and-centre in the discussions over major energy sector investments, such as the potential second nuclear reactor.
But he's also been entangled by the controversies surrounding the ongoing delays at the $1.4-billion refurbishment project at the existing Point Lepreau reactor and the botched plan to sell NB Power.
The Tories are fielding retired heart surgeon, Dr. Jim Parrott against Keir. Parrott is not a political neophyte, he's run for nominations in the past but this is the first time his name has been on the ballot.
The People's Alliance of New Brunswick is also contesting the riding and have already nominated Ed Hoyt. A strong showing by Hoyt could create a close race on Sept. 27.
Green Party candidate Janice Harvey is running in Charlotte-Campobello, a riding that could see a tight, four-party race. (CBC)The Charlotte-Campobello is shaping up to be one of the best four-party races and is considered to be one of the handful of ridings that could see one of the non-traditional parties winning a seat.
The People's Alliance is running John Craig, the mayor of St. Andrews and the Green Party is fielding Janice Harvey, the party's president and a well-known environmentalist. The Progressive Conservatives have held the seat since 1999, but incumbent Tony Huntjens is not re-offering.
The Liberals are running Annabelle Juneau in the riding and the PC are resting their electoral hopes on Curtis Malloch.
Although the PCs and the Liberals normally dominate the riding, it is unclear how much of an impact the new parties will have on the electorate.
Craig ran for the PC nomination but switched to the People's Alliance after he lost. He could eat into the share of the vote of the PC candidate, plus pick up support because of his own personal popularity as a local mayor along with people who back the new party.
Harvey could also be a factor in creating an even more competitive race between the parties. If the NDP also runs a strong candidate, it could further splinter the vote and mean the eventual winner may be up a long time on Sept. 27.
Wally Stiles is trying to win the Petitcodiac riding as a Liberal after being elected in 1999, 2003 and 2006 as a Tory. (CBC)The eastern riding of Petitcodiac is featuring a pair of party switchers that could make for a fascinating campaign.
The Progressive Conservatives were stung by the decision of Moncton West MLA Joan MacAlpine-Stiles and Petitcodiac MLA Wally Stiles to defect the party's ranks in April 2007 to join the Liberals.
Since that time, Stiles has been promoted to natural resources minister and MacAlpine-Stiles has opted not to re-offer in her riding of Moncton West. So the Petitcodiac election battle is the only chance for a referendum on one of the floor-crossers.
Petitcodiac is a bedrock Tory riding but Stiles has held the riding since 1999 and will hope to use every advantage that incumbency carries with it to retain his seat.
The Tories hope Sherry Wilson will be able reclaim the seat from Stiles.
Another political turncoat is adding a further level of electoral complication. Bethany Thorne-Dykstra, who ran for the Liberals in 2003, is now carrying the Green party's banner into the 2010 campaign. She was prominent in the anti-NB Power sale movement and called for a referendum on the contentious agreement.
If Thorne-Dykstra can pick up any momentum, it will be important to see what party she steals support from the most. If she picks up votes from the Tories, it could turn into a three-party race.