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Support rises for Confederation of Regions

The Story

There's little doubt that Frank McKenna's Liberals will win the 1991 election. But they can't expect another sweep this time. Their opposition may well come from unexpected quarters: Confederation of Regions, a new political party. In a province where 30 per cent of the population is francophone, COR's platform of anti-bilingualism has proven controversial with many voters - and popular with many others. As this CBC radio documentary finds, COR has grown at the expense of the Tories. According to a New Brunswick pollster, COR's support comes mainly from voters who feel that the province's official bilingualism policy has limited their opportunities. The party is running candidates in 48 of 58 ridings, but no one is sure exactly how many seats COR can expect to win. Due to a lingering perception that it's a party of bigots, some voters are reluctant to tell pollsters they're planning to cast a ballot for COR. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: Sept. 22, 1991
Guest(s): Jean-Marie Beaudoin, Greg Hargrove, Claude Stewart, Art Taylor
Host: Mary Lou Finlay
Reporter: Roger Bill
Duration: 12:40
Campaign ads: Confederation of Regions part of New Brunswick

Did You know?

• In the election of Sept. 23, 1991, the Liberals under Frank McKenna won 46 of 58 seats. Confederation of Regions formed the official opposition with eight seats. The Progressive Conservatives won three, and NDP leader Elizabeth Weir was her party's sole winner.
• Arch Pafford, CoR's leader, failed to win his seat but congratulated his team on election night. "We've made an impact on politics in this province and the CoR party is here for a long, long time," he said.

• The eight seats the party won in New Brunswick in 1991 were its first electoral triumphs. They would also be its last: the party was shut out in the 1995 provincial election.
• CoR began in Edmonton in 1983, but its New Brunswick branch was not founded until 1989. It also had a presence in provincial elections in Manitoba and Ontario, and fielded candidates in the 1984 federal election.

• Among CoR's New Brunswick campaign promises were a pledge to meld the province's English and French school systems and to designate English its only official language.
• The province's francophone daily newspaper viewed CoR's 1991 showing as un coup au derrière, or a kick in the rear. But other observers said it was less an anti-French vote than a vote against the Liberal tide and that right-leaning voters had nowhere else to go.

• The day after the election, CoR's Brent Taylor tried to allay New Brunswickers' fears about his party. He said the voters' intention was not to reject francophones. "Some people were mad about everything here and they voted that way," he said. "What is happening in New Brunswick has only to do with New Brunswick."
Listen to a clip from CBC's Morningside in which two New Brunswick journalists debate the CoR voters' intent and the francophone population's reaction.

• In the lead-up to the 1995 election, CoR was, according to the Globe and Mail, "bedevilled by leadership problems and never managed seriously to challenge the Liberals."
• In 1993, the electoral boundaries were redrawn and the total number of seats fell to 55.
• The Liberals under McKenna won again in 1995 with 48 seats. The Progressive Conservatives, led by Bernard Valcourt, won six seats, and the NDP won one.

• In October 1997, Frank McKenna stepped down as Liberal leader. MLA Ray Frenette was interim leader (and premier) until the party elected Camille Thériault, a former cabinet minister in McKenna's government.
• McKenna returned to his law practice. In 2005, he was appointed Canada's ambassador to the United States, but resigned from the position in 2006 when the Conservative Party of Canada took over the reins of government.

• Although he had his share of criticism, McKenna's decade as premier is now generally viewed as successful. A 2001 press release from the Institute for Research on Public Policy describes conclusions made by New Brunswick professor Donald J. Savoie: "Between 1987 and 1997, the province put its fiscal house in order, streamlined the public service and made the greatest progress of any province in reducing its dependency on federal transfers…Most importantly, perhaps, McKenna succeeded in instilling a 'can-do' attitude in New Brunswick."


N.B. Elections: Colourful Characters, Pivotal Points more