Greener pastures: third party rise changes New Brunswick’s political landscape

Green Party leader David Coon was re-elected to the Fredericton South riding on Sept. 24.

“It feels fantastic to win. This is a win for New Brunswickers,” Coon said.

Coon wasn’t the only Green Party candidate elected in the province. Kevin Arseneau took Kent North and Megan Mitton was elected in Memramcook-Tantramar, for a total of three Green seats in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly.

The New Brunswick Green Party formed in 2008 and the party’s 2014 Fredericton South win was the first time a Green MLA was elected in NB.

“We know from experience and also from polling that people in the 19 to 34 age group are the biggest supporters of [the] Green Party in Canada and New Brunswick. [They are] a huge supporter of Green candidates,” Coon said in an interview with The Aquinian weeks before the election.

On election night, Coon took the Fredericton South riding with approximately 56.3 per cent of the vote. The Fredericton South riding encompasses the uptown and downtown areas of the south side.

Susan Holt of the Liberal Party came in second with 20.1 per cent of the vote for Fredericton South. Progressive Conservative candidate Scott Smith got 13.7 per cent of the vote. People’s Alliance candidate Bonnie Mae Clark received 8.1 per cent of the Fredericton South vote and the New Democratic candidate Chris Durrant got 1.7 per cent of the vote.

Student support

NB provincial elections has followed the same trend, never swaying from the red or blue parties. Coon feels voters are beginning to look beyond these two parties for a change of colour.

Second-year student Joshua Sallos, co-chair of the STU Young Green’s campus club, was glad to see Coon re-elected.

“There was never a doubt in my mind that David Coon wasn’t going to win the re-election in Fredericton South,” Sallos said.

“The fact that there are so many non-PC and non-Liberal representatives in the legislature right now to balance the power and create more of a discussion among the candidates in the legislative assembly — I am absolutely psyched to see what the future holds.”

Niklas Ernst, a political science graduate student at the University of New Brunswick, and volunteer with the Green Party, said Coon has done a good job bridging the gap between students and politics.

“He’s been here [on campus] for the past four, five, six years coming to campus, taking student issues seriously and I think students value that,” Ernst said.

In the beginning of his term as MLA, Coon convened a Youth Round Table with youth to discuss issues important to them. Coon also has a Snapchat and alternates spending time on the STU and UNB campuses talking with students each week.

“I think that’s what students really value, not showing up two weeks before election day saying, ‘Here I am, I would like to get your vote in two weeks,’” Ernst said.

Brad Cross, STU history prof and communications director for the Fredericton South Green Party campaign, said he is “delighted” that Coon was re-elected.

“We had to earn every vote,” said Cross, speaking of the effort Coon made to listen to student needs.

“I think one of the advantages of having the universities in the Fredericton South riding is that David has, you know, among other things, consulted with students on a regular basis,” Cross said, adding that Coon has been “fighting hard” for funding equity for STU.

Coon said he wants to bring back the tuition rebate program, see the timely completion benefit improved so the cap is lowered and eliminate a portion of interest on student loans. He said he also wants to push for more supports for people struggling with their mental health.

Coon said he is “humbled” by the support he’s received from students and others.

“There’s so much to be done,” he said. “There’s so many opportunities to make change.”

Historic election

Coon may be secure in his riding, but New Brunswick’s government was left undetermined on election night.

The province has elected its first minority government in almost 100 years.

The Progressive Conservative Party came out on top with 22 seats, after battling it out for the remaining riding, Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin, against the People’s Alliance.

“We will be a minority government for New Brunswick and we’ll start tomorrow because we’ll make this happen and I am excited about that,” said PC leader Blaine Higgs on election night at his campaign headquarters in Quispamsis.

“Our team worked hard through the whole campaign to offer voters a very clear choice. A choice about building New Brunswick together. And nothing’s clearer than what we see tonight, about an opportunity to work together.”

The Liberal Party started the evening by leading the race, but remained tied with the PCs before they took the last riding. The Liberals finished with 21 seats.

A party must have more than 25 seats to form a majority government.

Because the Liberals have an opportunity to form a minority government, Brian Gallant retains the right to maintain hold of the legislature regardless of the electoral outcome.

The Green Party and the People’s Alliance got three seats each, making this provincial election a historic one for third parties. The New Democratic Party wasn’t elected in any ridings.

Each party leader won their home riding, except for Jennifer McKenzie of the NDP in the Saint John Harbour riding.

With files from Madison McLaughlin and Lauren Hoyt

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