NDP leader will run in Saint John Harbour riding in upcoming election

New Brunswick NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie will try and reclaim the Saint John Harbour riding for the NDP in next year’s provincial election.

Seat hasn't been held by party since former leader Elizabeth Weir stepped down in 2005

New Brunswick NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie announced Saturday she will be running in the Saint John Harbour riding in the next provincial election, a riding not held by the party since former leader Elizabeth Weir resigned in 2005. (CBC)

New Brunswick NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie will try to reclaim the Saint John Harbour riding for the NDP in next year's provincial election in September 2018. 

The riding has not been held by the party since former leader Elizabeth Weir resigned her seat in 2005. The party currently has no seats in the legislature, and has not held a seat since Weir left. 

McKenzie made the announcement Saturday after her keynote speech at the provincial NDP's policy convention in Fredericton.

She said she wanted to run where the NDP have a long history, calling the riding a "strong NDP hold."

Weir represented the riding for 14 years, after defeating Liberal John Mooney in 1991.

"We've looked at a lot of statistics, and I think we always come back to the that riding," McKenzie said.

"It's the riding Elizabeth Weir represented so well for so many years."

McKenzie is a tech entrepreneur, engineer and mother of three who lives in St. Martins, which is outside of the Saint John Harbour riding. 

The Elections NB website says provincial candidates must "ordinarily" be a resident in New Brunswick, but "not necessarily" in the electoral district where they are a candidate.

She was acclaimed to the party's leadership in August, after former leader Dominic Cardy stepped down at the beginning of the year. 

The leadership race failed to attract any prominent New Democrats, and McKenzie was the only candidate who met the deadline and criteria for seeking the leadership of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party.

McKenzie previously ran as a candidate for the NDP in the 2015 federal election in Fundy-Royal in 2015. She finished third in that race, behind Liberal Alaina Lockhart and Conservative Rob Moore.

Preview of campaign platform

In her speech Saturday, she said she wanted to follow in the footsteps of Tommy Douglas, and work to eliminate the growing gap between the rich and poor.  

She said the first plank of the NDP's election platform will be to increase the minimum wage in New Brunswick. She pointed out that if youth can support themselves with better paying jobs, they wouldn't have to leave the province to find work elsewhere.

She also called for an end to the privatization of public services, such as the recent announcement by the provincial Liberal government of changes to the extramural program.

Near the end of her speech, she said the province should be focusing on renewable energy, calling the now-defunct Energy East pipeline project part of "the economy of the past."

Riding a priority for Liberals

The riding is currently the only one in Saint John held by the Liberals. It's represented by former cabinet minister Ed Doherty, who has announced he won't be running again. He won the riding by just 71 votes over Progressive Conservative Carl Killen in 2014. 

Before that, Killen defeated Doherty by 97 votes in a tight three-way race in 2010. 

Doherty was the minister responsible for Service New Brunswick, who became the target of fierce opposition criticism during the property assessment fiasco.

In September, Liberal Premier Brian Gallant announced he would take over as regional minister for Saint John and southwest New Brunswick.

At the time, he said the move had nothing to do with the upcoming election, but political experts said it sends a clear signal the Liberals want to make Saint John a priority leading up to September 2018. 

Duncan Gallant, a spokesman for the New Brunswick Liberal Association, said the party has seen interest from several individuals in the Saint John Harbour riding, but a nomination date hasn't been set yet. 

Asked to comment, Opposition Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs wished McKenzie good luck "on what I am confident will be a respectful and sincere campaign by our parties." 

But he didn't hint at who the Tories might be running in that riding, or when they would be announcing the nomination. 

The New Brunswick Green Party nominated Wayne Dryer, the party's president, to run in the Saint John Harbour riding at the end of September. 

About the Author

Sarah Petz

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Sarah Petz is a reporter with CBC Manitoba and was previously based at CBC New Brunswick. She can be reached at sarah.petz@cbc.ca.