New Brunswick·The 506er

Election aftermath: When there are more questions than answers

In today's newsletter, we discuss the major questions following Monday's stunner of an election, the future of the NDP and Elections New Brunswick's thoughts on how it all went down.

The future looks bleak for the NDP

Good evening,

The future of the government remains unclear the day after one of the province's wildest elections. Both Brian Gallant and Blaine Higgs remained firm in their stance that they plan to form government, but the murkiness of the situation raises questions about their next moves.

The Spin Reduxit boys answered those very questions in a helpful video as New Brunswick enters, as Gallant put it, "uncharted territory."

Our election aftermath coverage continued today, including interviews with the chief electoral officer, political scientists and the parties themselves.

Here's what we're talking about on Election Day + 1:

Top Headlines

Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs, left, won more seats, but Liberal Leader Brian Gallant still intends to form government. (CBC)

Prof. Mario Levesque doubts a minority government will last long, no matter which party forms it. (Radio-Canada)

New Brunswick's chief electoral officer, Kim Poffenroth, said the election went well on Elections NB's end. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

Progressive Conservative Andrea Anderson Mason unseated Liberal Rick Doucet on Monday, ending four decades of Liberal rule in the southern riding. (Julia Wright / CBC)

People's Alliance candidate Michelle Conroy defeated Liberal incumbent Bill Fraser in Miramichi. (Michelle Conroy/Facebook)

The pulse

What the heck just happened in New Brunswick? The CBC's Jacques Poitras and Dan McHardie take your questions and try to make sense of N.B.'s political future.

Talking point

Saint John Harbour had yet to be decided when NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie stood up in a local pub to read her concession speech. But there was nothing defeatist about her opening line.

"The NDP is back."

Sure, a politician is going to express optimism and strength even in a moment of failure. But it's a bold statement when the party earned its smallest share of the popular vote in more than 50 years.

NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie speaks to reporter after her concession speech on Monday. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Throughout her time as leader, McKenzie has been adamant about returning the party to its leftist roots after former leader and newly elected Tory Dominic Cardy steered it closer to the centre. In her speech Monday night, she said New Democrats spent a year "rebuilding the party across the province." That process included promoting ideals of a higher minimum wage as well as affordable education and child care, she said.

In that sense, the NDP is back. It's back with an uncompromising stance on establishing social programs in the province. But in another sense, it's back to struggling for political relevance.

In the past 10 provincial elections, dating back to 1982, the party eclipsed a 10 per cent share of the popular vote five times, but only reached beyond 11 per cent once (in 2014, under Cardy). In that time, an NDP candidate was elected five times but all in separate legislatures (and four of those were former party leader Elizabeth Weir, including the most recent in 2003).

The party was shut out again Monday and received just five per cent of the vote.

McKenzie says the party is on the right track, despite the dismal performance in Monday's election. (NDP)

For years the NDP laboured to find a voice in the shadow of the two big parties — even as the lone third-party option. But now the field is getting crowded, and the competition is resonating with voters in a way the NDP never could.

It's taken eight years and three elections for the Green Party and the People's Alliance to elect multiples MLAs and supplant the NDP as the third-party alternatives — in particular the Greens, who overlap the NDP in values.

Historically, southern New Brunswick and the capital region were sources of NDP support. But that disappeared this election.

The NDP took 18.37 per cent of the vote in the capital region in 2014 but just 1.82 per cent in 2018 with the Alliance and Greens making big gains. In 2014, the party won 16.5 per cent of the vote in southern New Brunswick, but that dwindled to 5.04 per cent on Monday.

"We know we're on the right track," McKenzie told reporters when asked about the future of the party. "It's a question of getting our message out."

That task seems more than difficult than ever.

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