New Brunswick

Moncton South race sees candidates focus on poverty, mental health

Moncton South has flipped between Liberals and Progressive Conservatives for decades, and now, for the first time since the 1980s, there’s no incumbent on the ballot. Those who are running point to affordable housing, homelessness and addictions as the top issues.

No incumbents running in downtown riding that’s flipped from Liberals to PCs

For the first time in decades no incumbents are on the ballot in Moncton South, which includes Moncton's downtown and west end neighbourhoods. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Affordable housing, homelessness and addictions are among the top issues in the riding of Moncton South, according to the candidates running in the area in the Sept. 14 provincial election.

Moncton South, with 11,159 voters, encompasses the urban core of New Brunswick's largest city, including the downtown, up to Mountain Road and the west end, where another election issue is the location of a new school. 

A hot housing market with record-setting sales and prices is taking place as apartment vacancy rates hover around two per cent, and the average cost of rent has surpassed what someone earning minimum wage could afford. 

The number of homeless people in the city living outside the two main shelters has doubled over the last year.

The riding has flipped between the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives over the last 30 years. According to Elections NB records, this will be the first election since the late 1980s without an incumbent on the ballot.

Liberal Cathy Rogers, a former finance minister first elected in Moncton South in 2014, is not running again.

Greg Turner, the Progressive Conservative candidate in Moncton South, says he wants to bring his experience as a businessman and one-term municipal councillor to Fredericton. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"Moncton South is the heart of the city and it deserves better," said Greg Turner, the Progressive Conservative candidate and one-term city councillor. "Quite frankly, it has challenges."

Five candidates are running: Turner, Tyson Milner for the Liberals, Josephine Watson for the Greens, Rebecca Rogers for the NDP and Marilyn Crossman-Riel for the People's Alliance. 

Milner, a businessman who unsuccessfully ran for the Liberals in Moncton Southwest in 2014, says he keeps hearing concerns about mental health.

Tyson Milner, the Liberal candidate in Moncton South, says he favours legislation that would require landlords to make a portion of units in new buildings affordable. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"There's drug addiction, there's crime, but they're all sort of symptoms of a problem," said Watson, who grew up in Fredericton and lived in Montreal before moving to Moncton eight years ago.

"I've gone through my own struggles with poverty, gone through my own struggles with mental health."

Watson said she moved back to New Brunswick because she was deeply depressed and couldn't find her place. 

Watson hopes to use her experience to ensure others in Moncton can access the services she says helped her. She said she struggled to pay rent, but had a good relationship with her landlord which meant she got through that period. 

"I'm in my 40s and I have my first job at a living wage," Watson said. "Now, I can not just survive, but I can thrive."

Josephine Watson, the Green Party candidate in Moncton South, says her own experience with poverty and mental health challenges offers voters a chance to elect someone who can bring that experience to the legislature. (Shane Magee/CBC)

City council meetings have increasingly been dominated by discussions of affordable housing and homelessness centred in Moncton South. Councillors and city staff have repeatedly blamed the province for not doing enough on those issues, which are the responsibility of that higher level of government.

Turner, who is running for the party that's held power for the last two years, sought to pin the blame on the Liberal government that left office in fall 2018, rather than the most recent PC government.

He said the PCs aren't responsible for the lack of progress on the housing problem because spring flooding and the pandemic dominated the PC government's attention.

"Unfortunately, everything got sidetracked," Turner said.

An apartment building demolished on Elm Street in downtown Moncton earlier this summer to make way for a new six-storey apartment building. (Shane Magee/CBC)

A city-backed plan to boost affordable housing called Rising Tide has been stuck in limbo for months awaiting word from the province on whether it will split half the cost of the $12-million plan with the municipality.

Rebecca Rogers also points to increasing homelessness and addictions in the riding as issues that haven't been addressed by recent governments.

If elected, she hopes to advocate for better health care for members of the LGBTQ community. In particular, Rogers said there aren't enough doctors in the Moncton region who provide care for transgender people. 

Rebecca Rogers, the NDP candidate in Moncton South, says she's running to advocate for affordable housing, addictions and LGBTQ issues. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"They can't get their medications for their transition so they are stuck in limbo," Rogers said. "They can't go forward with the transition."

Crossman-Riel is running for the second time after garnering seven per cent of the vote in 2018.

She's been involved with non-profit groups working to alleviate poverty, including the Moncton chapter of the Common Front for Social Justice.

The riding has flipped between PCs and Liberals in recent decades. Rogers won by strong margins in 2014 and 2018.

She announced she wouldn't run again on the day the election began. 

The riding has appeared on lists of ones to watch in this election by political scientists, suggesting it could be an opening for the PCs given Turner has more name recognition. 

The riding includes residential areas around the downtown core extending to parts of the east end and west end neighbourhoods. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Milner acknowledges the challenge. 

"The Milner family has been here for six generations, but they don't know me as a person," he said. "Some of my opponents are better — or better known — because they've held public office."

Milner has owned several businesses and was previously a residential landlord.

Milner said there's no one solution to homelessness and affordable housing, but he favours proposals such as Rising Tide and legislation that would require landlords to make a portion of units in new buildings affordable.

Meanwhile, candidates in the riding are also getting a lot of questions about how the province picked the location for a new west end school. 

The province confirmed it will build a kindergarten to Grade 8 school beside Bernice MacNaughton High School as the campaign was starting. 

But some parents in the west end — including Milner — had pushed for the new school to be constructed on the grounds of Bessborough, one of the two schools that will be closed and replaced by the new facility. 

The district education council voted in March 2017 that a school to replace Bessborough be constructed on that school's site.

Some parents, including Liberal candidate Tyson Milner, have been calling for a new school to replace Bessborough School and Hillcrest School on the Bessborough site. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

"The issue for me is that nobody's listening to the neighbourhood," Milner said. "Schools are a really big part of our community. … It's the social glue that holds it together."

He said no one has explained why the Bessborough site can't be used. If elected, Milner said, he would push to have the location reconsidered. 

The Tories have previously pledged to keep politics out of school location decisions. 

Turner said he's also heard from many parents unhappy with the location. 

He has suggested, including during a city council meeting Tuesday, that the site decision was made by the district education council.

The Education Act states those councils only make general recommendations, and specific site selection is a decision made by the education minister.


Shane Magee


Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC. He can be reached at


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