New Brunswick·Profile

Green Party Leader David Coon

David Coon is running for political office as the leader of the Green Party after working 28 years for the Conservation Council

David Coon seeks seat for Green Paty to be conscience of province in Legislative Assembly

Green Party Leader David Coon is running in his first provincial campaign.

For nearly three decades many New Brunswickers have known David Coon as the leader of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and the province's environmental conscience.

Coon left the political sidelines two years ago and has set his sights on a seat in the Legislative Assembly as the leader of the Green Party.

"Overwhelmingly, I felt and feel that politics are so badly broken in New Brunswick, that is the reason that we are in such a mess," he said.

Vital signs

Born: Oct. 28, 1956 in Toronto, Ont.

Education: Bachelor science from McGill University in 1978

Political life: Elected leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick in September 2012.

Personal life: Married to Janice Harvey. They have two daughters, Caroline and Laura.

"Partisanship is out of hand, the Legislative Assembly is dysfunctional, we don't have real representation any more in the Legislative Assembly, decisions are made in the backrooms. I felt that I spent 28 years serving New Brunswickers working at the Conservation Council, I felt the best way to serve people at this point would be to enter politics."

The rookie political leader hasn't wasted any time in tackling tough issues.

Coon has been steadfastly opposed to shale gas exploration in the province. He has also clearly staked out a position that is opposed to Progressive Conservative Party Leader David Alward's Crown forest policy.

The Green Party leader has gone to court to unearth documents and he's vowed to continue the fight to halt these policies that he believes are disastrous for the province.

Coon said these are the issues that he feels passionately about. He believes voters want someone who will defend their interests.

Coon has been a frequent critic of the Alward government's Crown forestry plan and how it benefits companies, such as J.D. Irving Ltd. (CBC)
In some cases, Coon has been the only political leader willing to fight these policies, which the Green Party leader said he doesn't mind a bit.

"It's fundamentally critical that New Brunswickers know where the party leaders stand on issues that matter. I'm not a person to beat around the bush. I will always be very clear on where I stand on whatever the issue is, I think people appreciate that, whether they agree or not on a particular issue, at least they know where you stand and why. People respect that," Coon said.

"What New Brunswickers are fed up with is the mealy-mouthed, blah-blah-blah that comes out of the mouth of too many politicians, who are afraid to say where they stand because it may lose them votes or it might run counter to where the party is."

Citizens, according to Coon, have latched onto the forestry issue in a way that he did not predict. He said the Alward government's policy has united New Brunswickers in a way similar to the former Liberal government's bungled attempt to sell NB Power.

He said the forestry deal is a symbol to many people of what is wrong with politics.

"This time government has just gone too far, bent over too far for Jim Irving, got too far away from the public interest and sacrificing too much," he said.

Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said he believes Coon is a "very articulate, thoughtful" person, who will undoubtedly raise the level of policy debate during the election campaign.

He said Coon will have a major problem, however, in translating that policy depth into a depth of popular support across the province.

"New Brunswickers in large numbers will consider the Green Party to be a narrow, interest-based party and the Achilles heel of the Greens is they are very good on the environment but they are like Doctor No on questions of economic development, jobs and revenue increases for government," Bateman said.

Entry into politics

Coon worked at the Conservative Council for 28 years, ultimately becoming the organization's executive director. He had also worked with fishermen, the agriculture industry and woodworkers in the past.

Coon's experience will boost the level of policy debate in the provincial election, according to Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University. (CBC)
He said his decades of experience working with different groups gives him a unique perspective he could take to the legislature.

Coon defeated Moncton's Roy MacMullin in the party's leadership race in September 2012. Coon took over for Greta Doucet, who was serving as the party's interim leader after the resignation of Jack MacDougall.

MacDougall was the party's first leader and he managed to get 49 candidates to run under the party's banner in 2010. The Greens earned 4.54 per cent of the vote.

The party didn't win any seats, but a few candidates, particularly in the Fredericton area, performed well.

MacDougall placed third in his Fredericton-area riding. Former hospital executive Jim Wolstenholme placed fourth in another Fredericton riding, but he earned more than 1,000 votes and placed just behind the NDP in a competitive race.

Running in Fredericton South

The Green Party leader has picked Fredericton South, which is one of the province's most hotly-contested races to run in.

Along with Coon, Progressive Conservative Craig Leonard, the province's energy minister, and NDP candidate Kelly Lamrock, a former Liberal cabinet minister, are running in the riding.

The packed field will mean Coon will need to devote a significant amount of time campaigning in the downtown riding, rather than trying to drum up support for candidates in other parts of the province.

Coon said it will be a "juggling act" to determine how much time to spend in Fredericton South versus helping out candidates across the province.

He started going door-to-door last October and he feels that he can offer something very different from the other candidates.

"People who will vote for me will get an MLA who will stand up for them in the legislature," Coon said.

"The other candidates, in a sense, are wasted MLAs because they are told what to say by their parties they are told how to vote by their parties, by voting for me because of the Green Party's strong principles of participatory democracy, our party does not operate that way."

The Green leader said he will be looking to former NDP leader Elizabeth Weir as a role model for how to be an effective party leader and MLA.

"I would play a similar role as Elizabeth, both strongly representing my constituents and being a voice and sort of conscience of the province in the legislature," he said.

"The others can't provide that."

Hopes for electoral success

The Greens are not looking to form a government after Sept. 22, but that doesn't mean Coon is not setting high expectations for his party.

Coon said his goal is to double the party's share of the popular vote, which was 4.5 per cent in 2010. But he also said he wants to see other Green candidates sent to Fredericton.

"I think there will be some significant surprises at the riding level in terms of the candidate who will be elected, perhaps the overall result of who forms government may not be a surprise," Coon said.

"But at the riding level, I see a number of Green MLAs being apart of that."

Geoff Martin, a political science professor at Mount Allison University, said a victory for Coon could shake up New Brunswick's political system.

"The election of David Coon would show not only discontent with the government but it would show discontent with the usual politics. It would show the growing appeal for the ecological approach [to politics] were starting to make a breakthrough," he said.

"The NDP platform is unlikely to be so different from the Liberal platform that I wouldn't see a NDP win as the most disruptive."


Daniel McHardie

Digital senior producer

Daniel McHardie is the digital senior producer for CBC New Brunswick. He joined in 2008. He also co-hosts the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.