David Coon's Greens benefiting from post-election turmoil, polls suggest
Latest polls find the PCs, People's Alliance holding, Liberals sliding and Greens gaining
After all the jockeying in the New Brunswick legislature between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, it is the Green Party under David Coon that appears to have come out the better for it in public opinion.
Three surveys conducted after the September provincial election suggest that both the PCs and the People's Alliance have not seen any significant shift in their support since the last vote, while the Liberals have taken a step back to the benefit of the Greens.
The latest poll, conducted by Corporate Research Associates throughout November and published on Tuesday, still gives the Liberals a five-point lead over the PCs, with the two parties standing at 35 and 30 per cent support, respectively.
The Greens follow with 17 per cent and the People's Alliance with 12 per cent.
The numbers paint a similar picture to two other polls taken at the end of October and early November by Mainstreet Research and MQO Research. Though there are some differences between the polls, the broad trends are the same.
For the PCs, support has hardly budged. The party averaged 33 per cent across the three polls, little different from the 31.9 per cent the party captured on Sept. 24.
Premier Blaine Higgs has also seen no shift in his support — 22 per cent of New Brunswickers said he is the best person to be premier in the CRA poll (out of a list that still included Brian Gallant), similar to where he stood in the polls before the election.
Gallant, who has announced plans to resign when a new Liberal leader is chosen, was favoured by 25 per cent of respondents.
The People's Alliance has not progressed, despite its new position as the kingmaker. The three polls put the party between 11 and 13 per cent, identical to its 12.6 per cent share of the vote in the election.
Kris Austin's victory, however, has awarded the Alliance leader more credibility. Austin scored 10 per cent from poll participants on the best premier question, his best result in any survey by CRA. Nevertheless, there hasn't been any corresponding increase in Alliance support.
Greens gain at Liberal expense
The biggest shifts have been between the Liberals and the Greens. The Liberals have averaged 33 per cent support in the three post-election surveys, a drop of about five points.
CRA had the best results for the party and still put them down three points. Mainstreet suggested a drop of four points while MQO a drop of nine.
The Greens have been the beneficiaries, averaging 18 per cent support — a gain of six points since the election. All three pollsters said they found gains for the Greens since the last vote, ranging between four and nine points.
Coon is now seen as the best person to be premier by 17 per cent of New Brunswickers polled, only five points behind Higgs and Coon's best result in any poll since he became leader in 2012.
But the Greens should not be measuring for the curtains in the premier's office just yet. The party is not yet scoring anywhere close to the results its cousin in Prince Edward Island is putting up — polls there suggest the P.E.I. Greens are neck-and-neck with the governing Liberals.
And the New Brunswick Greens need to make up more ground before they can turn these poll numbers into tangible results.
The party might have won three seats in September, but it finished second in just two others — a distant second. The Liberals beat the Greens by 21 points in Restigouche West and 54 points in Restigouche-Chaleur. The Greens will need more than an 11-point swing between them and the Liberals to see even a fourth seat fall their way.
Little incentive for pulling plug
The trend line is heading in the right direction for the Greens, but these aren't numbers that should embolden Coon to try to pull the plug on the Higgs government just yet.
The People's Alliance could have more to gain — it is easier to identify a fourth or fifth seat for the Alliance than it is to spot the Greens' next pickup — but it might be difficult for the Alliance to improve upon its balance-of-power position.
While such numbers could produce another minority legislature if they were replicated at the ballot box, the PCs were still only three seats short of a majority government, despite losing the popular vote by about six points to the Liberals.
If the Greens are bleeding support away from the Liberals while the People's Alliance has yet to make similar inroads among PC supporters, a snap election could just as easily produce a narrow PC majority — reducing whatever clout the Greens and People's Alliance have in the legislature to virtually nothing.