Analysis

Justin Trudeau's Liberal sweep unprecedented in New Brunswick

It wasn't only a good night for the Liberals in Monday's election, it was historic. For the first time, the province elected a full slate of Liberal members of Parliament. It's the only Atlantic province where the Liberal sweep is unprecedented.

Having one party represent the province and region could be a boost and a downfall

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's sweep of all 10 seats in New Brunswick is historic. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

It wasn't only a good night for the Liberals in Monday's election, it was historic.

For the first time, the province elected a full slate of Liberal members of Parliament. It's the only Atlantic province where the Liberal sweep is unprecedented.

It has happened three times before in Nova Scotia.

Newfoundland and Labrador has elected all Liberal MPs in four elections. 

Prince Edward Island has the most practice in sending Grits to Ottawa. The Liberals have already managed to sweep the island nine times — or 10 if 1887 is counted when one of the MPs was an independent Liberal.

It's not typical for New Brunswickers to agree on everything- Michael Camp, St. Thomas University professor

So what's so different about New Brunswick?

Why hasn't the province voted the same way at the same time in a federal election, until now?

It could have something to do with New Brunswick's unique culture. It's the only province with two official languages and the priorities of French and English regions aren't always aligned. 

"It's not typical for New Brunswickers to agree on everything," said Michael Camp, an associate professor in communications, public policy and journalism at St. Thomas University.

"Partly due to the cultural difference and partly due to just the history of politics in this province, there are deeply ingrained differences that are rarely mediated to the same point of view," Camp said.

Lack of opposition

Liberal supporters celebrate in Fredericton after Matt DeCourcey defeated Tory Keith Ashfield. DeCourcey will be joined by nine other Liberal MPs from New Brunswick. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)
It's hard to say whether having one party represent the province and Atlantic Canada will be a boost for the region or work against its best interests.

There will certainly be challenges and benefits.

For one, there won't be any opposition members holding the government to account.

Paul MacNeill, the publisher of Island Press Limited, distinctly remembers how the lack of opposition affected Prince Edward Island when its four seats were all occupied by Liberals under the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin governments.

"The Chrétien government was the first to start fiddling with the Employment Insurance fund ... That's a policy that directly negatively impacted maritime provinces," MacNeill said.

"But in the case of P.E.I., the MPs at the time, certainly had no problem defending it. Even though it was not in the best interest of their constituents."

Liberal Karen Ludwig was elected in New Brunswick Southwest, a riding that is normally considered a Conservative stronghold. (CBC)
During most of Chrétien's tenure as prime minister, there was a Progressive Conservative government on Prince Edward Island. 

That will not be the case this time around in New Brunswick [or P.E.I and Nova Scotia], as there's a Liberal government provincially as well. 

In other words, citizens may not see New Brunswick's government holding the federal government's feet to the fire on policy decisions on a frequent basis. 

'We can get issues on the table'

Liberal Alaina Lockhart became only the second Liberal in a century to be elected in Fundy Royal. (CBC)
But, there is power in numbers. And there's simply never been such a large Atlantic contingent in the governing party's caucus.

"We rarely get to speak with the authority of one voice," Camp said.

It really will come down to a case of who wins the ear of the federal cabinet minister in charge of the pot of gold- Paul MacNeill , Island Press Limited

"That means we can get issues on the table we couldn't before."

The Atlantic Liberal block could help open up more discussions about issues that matter to the region.

Whether that to substantive change, remains to be seen.

"There are only so many dollars, so it really will come down to a case of who wins the ear of the federal cabinet minister in charge of the pot of gold," MacNeill said.

New Brunswick voting patterns

Over the years, the Liberals have come close to sweeping New Brunswick in federal elections, and so have the Conservatives and the Progressive Conservatives. 

Here's a look at how New Brunswick has voted over the years:

  • In the first federal election of 1867, all but one seat was Liberal in the province. The only Conservative, who represented the city and county of Saint John, was acclaimed because nobody ran against him. 
  • In 1930 federal election, 10 out of 11 seats were Conservative.
  • In 1935, it was the reverse — nine Liberals and one Conservative [the province had one fewer seat by that point].
  • In 1984, nine of the 10 federal seats went to the Progressive Conservatives.
  • A couple elections later in 1993, the Liberals and PCs reversed fortunes (nine Liberals to one Tory).
  • There have been three Parliaments in which there's been an equal split in New Brunwick — five MPs from one party, five from another.
  • Provincially, the Liberals swept New Brunswick under Frank McKenna in 1987.

About the Author

Julianne Hazlewood

Host

Julianne Hazlewood is the host of London Morning. She has worked across the country at CBC newsrooms in Ottawa, Vancouver, Windsor, Fredericton and Saskatoon.

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