A blue tide washed over New Brunswick's capital city on Tuesday night as Tory Keith Ashfield reclaimed a seat that had been Liberal for more than 15 years.
The former provincial natural resources minister defeated Liberal David Innes in what had been a hotly contested riding. Ashfield opened up a quick lead early in the evening, defeating Innes by 15,800 to 11,564 with 183 of 204 polls reporting. The NDP's Jesse Travis earned 5,629 votes, followed by Green Party candidate Mary-Lou Babineau with 3,703 votes and the Canada Action Party's Ben Kelly with 142 votes.
Ashfield watched from a Fredericton hotel room as the votes came in before heading out to his victory rally to thank his supporters.
Ashfield said he felt the riding was on the verge of switching to the Conservatives early on in his campaign as voters told him at the doors that they were nervous about the impact a carbon tax called for by Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion would have on the provincial economy.
"People were concerned about carbon tax and they were concerned about the economy. Obviously they thought, on the economy, that Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper was the one to take us through some trying times," Ashfield said. "We had a great campaign team. They did a good job and I have to congratulate my opponents as well — they ran very clean campaigns."
The riding was so coveted by both the Conservatives and Liberals that for a moment on Monday morning the Fredericton airport had both leaders' planes parked on the tarmac. The Conservatives had targeted the capital city's riding early in the campaign, sending Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to a manufacturing company during the first week.
Outgoing Liberal MLA Andy Scott first won the Fredericton riding in 1993, ending decades of dominance by the Conservatives that stretched back to 1957. After the 1993 breakthrough, Scott managed to hang on despite a series of tough challenges.
Scott did not run in this election, opening the door for Innes, the president and chief executive officer of the Greater Fredericton Airport Authority. Ashfield was first elected to the legislative assembly in 1999 in Bernard Lord's landslide election victory.
The New Maryland MLA was appointed to cabinet in 2003 and was re-elected in 2006 despite the defeat of the Lord government. Despite their political differences, Ashfield said he can learn a lot from the outgoing Liberal MP.
"I had the utmost respect for Andy Scott and the work he did even if we didn't always agree philosophically," Ashfield said. "He was a fantastic MP and a lot of the things he's done I hope to emulate in the coming years."