New Brunswick

Most popular NDP candidate questions party's future after dismal election

The most successful NDP candidate from last week's New Brunswick election is not convinced the party will survive after its dismal showing at the polls, at least in his part of the province.

Jean-Maurice Landry said the party ignored his ideas to support northern New Brunswick

Jean-Maurice Landry was the most successful candidate fielded by the NDP in September's general election, but he questions whether the party can survive given its poor showing. (CBC)

The most successful NDP candidate from last week's New Brunswick election is not convinced the party will survive after its dismal showing at the polls, at least in his part of the province.

"I'm not too sure about the NDP's future in the north because of the way they conducted the campaign," said Jean-Maurice Landry.  

"There's certainly room for a third party in northern New Brunswick — as to which one, time will tell."

Landry, a blueberry grower and activist, put up a scrappy fight against Liberal cabinet minister and five-term MLA Denis Landry in Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint-Isidore. He finished second with 30 per cent of the vote, eating deeply into Liberal support even as the provincial NDP was melting away around him.

The 2,026 votes cast for Landry was triple what the NDP managed in the riding in the past election and 90 per cent higher than what any other NDP candidate in the province received.  

It was also more than double the votes cast for leader Jennifer McKenzie in Saint John Harbour.  

Jean-Maurice Landry, NDP candidate for Bathurst East-Nepisiguit-Saint-Isidore, more than doubled the number of votes earned by NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie. (Photo: CBC)

Still, Landry believes he could have done better.

He said the party rejected his platform ideas about the need for greater help for northern communities and sent him organizational help only in the final two weeks of the campaign when it became obvious he alone was connecting with voters.

Landry said he was further handicapped by missing the first 10 days of the campaign while tending to his blueberry harvest.

In 2016, blueberry grower Jean-Maurice Landry led a local protest over low prices in front of the offices of local Liberal MLA Denis Landry in Saint-Isidore,before running against the cabinet minister in September's general election for the NDP. He finished second with 30 per cent of the vote, the best result for the NDP in the province. (CBC)

"We knew we were going to get a good result, but we simply ran out of time," said Landry.  

"The result did not surprise me."   

Worst result in 44 years

In an election where New Brunswick voters were moving their support in large numbers to alternative parties, like the Greens and People's Alliance, the NDP struggled to appeal to the public and was mostly ignored.  

The party attracted just over 19,000 votes on election night — a 60 per cent drop from 2014 and its worst result in a provincial New Brunswick election in 44 years.  

In 1974, it won 9,000 votes after fielding a limited number of 35 candidates.

On election night last week, NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie declared the party "is back" but given mostly poor results all around the province that sounded optimistic.

NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie's hopes of getting the party back to its roots and into the legislature were crushed Monday when she went down to defeat in Saint John Harbour. 10:26

NDP support dropped to one per cent in some ridings and, of its 49 candidates, only Landry got enough votes to qualify for campaign expense reimbursements from Elections New Brunswick, which are payable to those with 15 per cent of the vote or more.

"The north is a very fertile ground. I think my campaign has proven that," said Landry.   

"When you look at five per cent provincially and 30 per cent here in this riding, I think we did something right."

'Local people's issues were not well reflected'

Landry's campaign focused on the north not getting the same share of road and job creation money as southern New Brunswick and other local issues he said he could not interest the provincial party in highlighting.

"Local people's issues were not well reflected in the different parties' platforms, including the NDP," he said. "We are considered a remote area when in reality we are closer to Montreal and Toronto than Fredericton, Moncton or Saint John. The NDP was not too keen on making our local platform here public."

Landry said it is "too soon" for him to consider whether he will run again and, if he does, whether it will be as a New Democrat.

But he does question whether it makes sense for the Green Party and the NDP to both be running candidates against one another in future elections.

"Given the current situation, that may have to be reconsidered," he said.