Conservatives make gains in New Brunswick

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper capitalized on a series of tight local riding fights in New Brunswick in his bid for re-election.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper capitalized on a series of tight local riding fights in New Brunswick in his bid for re-election.

As Conservatives were facing tough battles in other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick proved to be the most fertile ground for potential new seat gains. The province delivered three new seats to the Conservatives: in Fredericton, Miramichi and Saint John.

The bolstered New Brunswick caucus should boost federal-provincial co-operation in the next Harper minority government, said Tom Bateman, a political science professor at St. Thomas University.

"If New Brunswick is the anchor for the Atlantic Canadian presence of the Conservative government I think that is a great thing," Bateman said. "It will mean more co-operation between the province and the feds."

When the election was called, the three Conservative seats were in rural ridings. Once the ballots were counted, however, another trend quickly emerged. Not only did the Conservatives gain seats in ridings that stood to be impacted by a potential carbon tax, but Harper now has a foothold in three urban ridings.

Conservative candidate Keith Ashfield, a former provincial cabinet minister, easily won in Fredericton, becoming the first Tory to hold the capital city riding since 1993. Ashfield said the outrage against a carbon tax can be credited largely to the expanded New Brunswick caucus.

 Party  2008  2006
 Conservatives  6  3
 Liberals  3  6
 NDP  1  1

With more Conservatives in Ottawa, Ashfield said it will be easier for New Brunswick issues to be put on the priority list.

"I think it is going to mean a lot for New Brunswick," he said. "It will be a lot easier for us to get our message out in the province with more members in caucus."

Saint John residents were forced to wait the longest on election night to see who would be elected in the Port City. Conservative candidate Rodney Weston, a former provincial cabinet minister and the chief of staff to former premier Bernard Lord in his final mandate, scored a slim victory over Liberal Paul Zed.

Weston used his riding battle as a referendum on the carbon tax contained in the Liberal Green Shift policy, which, he said, Saint John residents clearly rejected.

The Conservative acknowledged his narrow win and said there will be no time for partisanship as he works hard to bring the city's agenda to Ottawa.

"I've always approached politics by working with all people," Weston said. "You need to bring everybody into the tent. You need to reach out to people of all parties."

Tories pick up Miramichi

Miramichi Tory candidate Tilly O'Neill-Gordon toppled Liberal incumbent Charles Hubbard, who has held the seat since 1993.

"More Conservatives from New Brunswick in Ottawa means more money to New Brunswick and I'm happy to be part of that," O'Neill-Gordon said.

For much of the evening, it appeared Harper was poised to steal Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe away from the Liberals. However, Liberal incumbent Brian Murphy defeated Conservative candidate Daniel Allain, a former executive assistant to Lord, by roughly 1,200 votes.

The Conservatives could not be budged in the three seats they held when the writ was dropped. New Brunswick Southwest Conservative Greg Thompson, who served as the province's lone cabinet minister in the Harper government, again breezed through to re-election. Rob Moore continued his grip on Fundy Royal for the Conservatives, defeating the New Democratic Party's Rob Moir and Liberal Mark Wright.

After a nail-biting victory in 2006, Mike Allen cruised to victory in Tobique-Mactaquac on Tuesday night. After winning by less than 400 votes in the last election, Allen was re-elected by a wide margin over Liberal Sally McGrath.

The Liberals managed to hang onto the ridings of Beausejour and Madawaska-Restigouche.

Acadie-Bathurst NDP MP Yvon Godin easily won his fifth straight election, defeating Conservative Jean Guy Dube and Liberal Odette Robichaud.

When the election was called, the Liberals held six ridings, the Conservatives had three and there was a single NDP MP.