NDP leader loses in Saint John Harbour as party is shut out across province
'Tonight, New Brunswickers have decided to send others to the legislature'
NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie's hopes of getting the party back to its roots and into the legislature were crushed Monday when she went down to defeat in Saint John Harbour.
McKenzie conceded the contest even before it was clear who would win the riding.
Capturing only about 14.7 per cent of the vote, she was running third, behind Progressive Conservative Barry Ogden, a retired teacher.
Ogden was just 11 votes behind Liberal Gerry Lowe, a city councillor, who is projected to win the riding. Also in the race were Wayne Dryer of the Green Party and Margo Brideau of the People's Alliance.
Unlike the Greens and People's Alliance, the NDP was shut out across the province in the provincial election, although McKenzie tried to put a more positive light on things in her speech to supporters.
"My message to you is the NDP is back," she said. "We have spent just over a year rebuilding the party across the province in order to build a better New Brunswick."
McKenzie said she was proud of the campaign the party ran over the past month.
"During this election campaign we sent a message to New Brunswickers: we would stand up for them and their families," she said.
"Tonight, New Brunswickers have decided to send others to the legislature."
She thanked the people of Saint John and promised "to work for you with all my heart, with all my energy."
Saint John Harbour was considered one of the more competitive ridings in this election, and McKenzie was running against two well-known candidates in Lowe and Ogden. In 2014, Liberal Ed Doherty won by only 71 votes over the Tory and did not seek re-election.
It's been 13 years since the NDP has held a seat in the legislature, not since former leader Elizabeth Weir — who was elected four times between 1991 and 2003, three times in Saint John Harbour — retired from politics.
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McKenzie took charge of the party in August 2017, after the resignation of former NDP leader Dominic Cardy, who ran for election this time as a Progressive Conservative and won in Fredericton West-Hanwell.
McKenzie, the only person who met the deadline and criteria for seeking the NDP leadership, promised to return the party to its traditional spot on the left after a move to toward the centre under Cardy.
She campaigned on a youth and worker-focused platform. She pledged to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and create 24,000 child-care spaces before and after school. She said she would impose pay equity immediately in the private sector, starting with the home care industry.
McKenzie also talked about ending privatization in health care, promising to break contracts with Ambulance NB and Medavie, which the Liberals hired to run the extramural hospital service.
In the last election, when Cardy was leader, the NDP garnered 13 per cent of the popular vote, the highest in the party's history. Polls during this election campaign suggested NDP support had fallen.
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With files from Julia Wright