New Brunswick

Flood could sway election for voters in Fredericton-Grand Lake

For the one-in-four residents of the Fredericton-Grand Lake riding residents affected by spring flooding, it's a top-of-mind issue when deciding who to vote for by Sept. 24.

'You will not see any Liberal signs on anybody’s lawn'

Fredericton-Grand Lake resident Kim Williams has been living in a trailer behind her Maugerville home after her house was destroyed in flooding this spring. (Catherine Harrop/CBC News)

Fredericton-Grand Lake resident Kim Williams has been living in a trailer behind her Maugerville home with her partner, daughter, grandson, son-in-law, three dogs and four cats.

The overcrowded conditions are not her choice. The first floor of her house is stripped down to the beams after the 2018 spring floods.

For Williams, and about one-quarter of residents in the Fredericton-Grand Lake riding who were hit by flooding, it could be a top-of-mind issue when deciding how to vote on Sept. 24.

"We still have people, families with small children getting on the school bus, they are living in trailers," Williams said. "The Liberals? I don't think they're going to do much in this riding. Too many people have really lost faith in anything they could do, because they weren't there for us when we needed them."

Kim Williams says she hasn't seen many liberal signs on her neighbour's lawns. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

"As you drive down through here, you will not see any Liberal signs on anybody's lawn. You will see Kris Austin's and Pam [Lynch]'s," she said, referring to the leader of the People's Alliance party and the riding's Progressive Conservative incumbent.

Williams applied for help in early May, and got the cheque last week. Over 500 financial assistance claims remain unsettled out of 879 applications.

The riding's candidates

Fredericton Grand-Lake, which borders the Saint John River at  Sheffield and cuts across the middle of Grand Lake, was also a riding hotly contested in last year's elections.

The Conservative's Lynch won by 26 votes, closely followed by People's Alliance Party Leader Kris Austin and Liberal Sheri Shannon.

Pam Lynch is the Progressive Conservative candidate for the riding of Fredericton-Grand Lake. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Candidates recognized there is anger over the flood response, but some don't think it's going to decide the election.

Lynch said she's heard from people who haven't received compensation.

"Here we're coming into October almost, and I've got people living in trailers and some of those people are seniors [who] don't have heat,'" she said.

"The help didn't come fast enough and you know what, after this I'd like to see a review done to see what we could do to make things better and help people faster if we have another disaster, because this just didn't work very well at all."

Kris Austin is the People's Alliance leader and candidate for the Fredericton-Grand Lake riding. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Austin said he has also noticed the disquiet.

"A lot of people aren't happy, for sure. Both by the process and by the length of time," he said.

Austin and Lynch both said they were on the ground during the flood helping people.

"We were very active and very engaged and I certainly did everything I could even as a private citizen to help," Austin said.

Liberal candidate Wendy Tremblay is running in the Fredericton-Grand Lake riding. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Liberal candidate Wendy Tremblay said people understand floods happen, and they are beyond a government's control.

"At the end of the day I really don't see that nature could be a reason for voting," she said. "As a member of this riding, watching the impact, watching our premier go in, move furniture, sandbag, talk to the people, actually get his hands in doing it, I was proud."

New Democratic Party candidate Glenna Hanley said some people are definitely concerned about the slow financial assistance process, but "I don't get the sense that people are really hanging their vote on the flooding."

Green Party candidate Dan Weston said it's obvious some people who were flooded will be angry at the Liberals.

"If you're mad and dissatisfied with what happened, are you going to vote for the same government? People are going to change their votes," Weston said.

"Everyone has been nitpicking them, insurance companies included, and people are upset, and the forecast could have been better, and that the government hasn't responded the way that they should."
Kiss NB Leader Gerald Bourque said he smells "change in the air."

"There's people that got their heaters disconnected and they're still waiting for paperwork and money to flow, and the other big problem that is going to happen ...  there's not going to be enough carpenters and electricians to go around and get things finished up."

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