People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin is preparing for a busy summer of recruiting candidates and knocking on doors as he sets his sights on winning a seat in the legislature and potentially holding a significant amount of influence after the next election.
The People’s Alliance fielded 14 candidates in 2010, the first time the party was on the ballot. Austin said his goal is to run a full slate of 49 candidates in the Sept. 22 election.
Austin is delivering a message of political accountability and common sense solutions to fixing the province’s sputtering economy.
While the People’s Alliance barely registers in political opinion polls, Austin said he believes a breakthrough is possible. He said the electorate is smart and understands the context to many of the province’s current troubles.
"The Liberals and Conservatives have such a terrible history, you can look at where we are at today, a $12 billion debt and a deficit that can’t be tackled," he said.
'If there is a minority government, if we can get a few people elected, we can change the dynamics of politics in New Brunswick.' - People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin
"The reality is we didn’t get here overnight, it is decades of mismanagement and misuse of taxpayers’ dollars. It falls squarely on Liberal and Conservative shoulders."
He said the last four years have demonstrated the two parties inside the legislature are unable to fix the province's issues.
The People's Alliance leader said he has a particular problem with the new prescription drug program. He also said the government's regulations that cover businesses are stifling growth.
Austin said if he can win a seat in the September election and there is another tight election, similar to 2003 and 2006, he could wield a tremendous amount of influence, especially if voters elect a minority government.
"[A minority legislature] could be the game-changer. We are well aware of the political indicators, it is looking like the possibility of a minority government and if you have a minority government then you give the small parties that have seats in the legislature a lot more power to push forward policies that they believe in,” Austin said.
"This time I get the sense that the majority of people haven’t forgiven the Liberals but the majority of people aren’t thrilled with the Conservatives either. If there is a minority government, if we can get a few people elected, we can change the dynamics of politics in New Brunswick."
Lack of exposure for party
The last CRA quarterly poll had the Liberals at 43 per cent, which would put them in the range needed to win a majority government, followed by the Tories at 31 per cent, the NDP at 21 per cent, the Greens at four per cent and the People's Alliance at zero per cent. The poll indicated 31 per cent were undecided.
The People’s Alliance’s high point in the polls in the last 12 months was three per cent in August 2013.
The People’s Alliance earned 1.2 per cent of the vote in the 2010 election campaign. Austin, however, placed third in the riding of Grand Lake-Gagetown with 19.6 per cent of the vote in the central riding.
Austin has had electoral success at the municipal level. He is the deputy mayor of the Village of Minto.
The major obstacle facing the People’s Alliance is a lack of exposure, according to its leader.
Austin was nominated on the weekend in his riding and spoke to a crowd of about 200 people. He said those people are among the growing number of New Brunswickers who are eager for a third option in provincial politics.
He said the traditional parties are not offering the voters a choice so it is up to his party to show them they have an alternative.
“Our biggest challenge is getting the message out. We are not radical. We are middle of the road, our policies are very common sense and practical,” he said.
“The biggest thing is I want people to know that locally for myself or for any People’s Alliance candidate is: we will represent the people first. We will not put party politics over the will of the people.”