Jenica Atwin wins back Fredericton seat, Liberal minority confirmed

    Jenica Atwin, left, has won back her seat at the Liberal Member of Parliament for Fredericton. She is seen in this file photo with Prime Minister Elect Justin Trudeau. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    The Fredericton riding was called with Liberal Member of Parliament Jenica Atwin defeating Conservative candidate Andrea Johnson by 502 votes. The results for the riding were confirmed just before noon on Sept. 22 – two days after election night.

    Final vote counts for Fredericton’s major parties show the Liberals with 16,316 votes, Conservatives with 15,814, Greens pulling slightly ahead of the New Democratic Party with 5,666 and NDP with 5,564.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau secured a minority government for the Liberal Party of Canada on Sept. 21, meaning the Liberals will once again need to find opposition partners to form a coalition.

    The Liberal Party secured 160 elected seats and the Progressive Conservatives trailed behind with 119. Bloc Québécois have 32 seats and despite the New Democratic Party having more than a million votes than the Bloc, they stand at 25. The Greens hold 2 seats. Neither the People’s Party of Canada nor independent parties gained seats in the house.

    Liberal Party

    Liberal MP for FrederictonJenica Atwin won back her seat after beating Conservative Party candidate Andrea Johnson by 501 votes. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    On election night, around 45 people gathered for the Liberal viewing party at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Fredericton to intently watch the close race unfold on the big screen.

    Atwin arrived soon after the polls closed to address media, supporters and campaign volunteers.

    “I am so proud of my team, so happy with the work that you’ve put in, so it’s just a good feeling all around,” she said.

    Atwin expressed a number of times throughout the evening how thankful she is for the time she had as the Fredericton MP and how encouraging the community support was for her.

    “From near and far, every corner of this beautiful riding, we did our best to be engaging [and] be accessible to voters,” said Atwin.

    Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals around two months before the election was called, a decision that shocked many constituents who elected her as a Green Party MP in 2019.

    While she knows the decision might have surprised voters and left them with many questions, Atwin said she worked hard to address them.

    Despite the controversy, she said the experience was overwhelmingly positive.

    “After everything that I’ve experienced over the last two years, I am still more optimistic than ever that we are ready for this change in Canada. We are ready for this transformational time and we can move forward together in a way that’s inclusive, that’s diverse, that represents everyone’s needs,” said Atwin.

    While Atwin still does not know the final results of the Fredericton riding, she called the experience “incredibly validating.”

    Progressive Conservative Party

    Conservative Party candidate Andrea Johnson greeted a group of 50 supporters at a viewing party at Brewbakers. (Jacob Moore/AQ)

    A group of 50 supporters attended a viewing party for Andrea Johnson, the Conservative Party candidate, at Brewbakers.

    Johnson, who previously ran for the Conservatives in 2019, is expecting a positive result this time around.

    “We’ve knocked on thousands and thousands of doors. It feels a lot different than it did in 2019,” said Johnson.

    Johnson said she would focus on mental health, healthcare and economic recovery if elected as Fredericton’s next MP.

    “I’ve been in sales my whole life … The number one way to be successful is to listen to the needs of the people that you’re trying to sell to,” she said. “To me, my customer base is my constituency.”

    As it became clear a winner wouldn’t be declared until at least the next day, people headed home, with Johnson thanking them on the way out.

    Johnson, smiling and in good spirits, sang along to The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” as she and her team waited for results to pour in.

    Green Party

    Green Party candidate Nicole O’Byrne said her party ran a positive campaign. (Hannah Rudderham/AQ)

    Around 30 people attended a viewing at the Snooty Fox in downtown Fredericton in support of the Green Party.

    Nicole O’Byrne, the local Green Party candidate, said her party ran a positive campaign.

    O’Byrne has 13 per cent of the vote with a current count of 5,383 ballots in her favour as of 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The last federal election in 2019 saw Jenica Atwin win the first federal Green Party seat in the province’s history.

    “I’d like to say thank you for your energy. Thank you for your belief. Thank you for voting your values and for a positive change for our future because voting the traditional mainstream parties is just trying the same things over and over again,” said O’Byrne to her campaign supporters.

    Perry Colonval, a St. Thomas University student and Green Party volunteer, said she has supported the Greens for a couple of years.

    “It’s something I’m very passionate about. They fight for a lot of what students want, like free tuition,” said Colonval.

    She said students should vote because they’re often disregarded as “just watching it and not expecting anything to happen.” But, Colonval said students taking time to cast a ballot will help them in the end if they’re voting for parties with policies that align with student interest.

    “I think it’s very important for [students] to vote because it affects our later decisions. If we don’t vote, older people will [vote] for us and that’s not in our best interest.”

    New Democratic Party

    New Democratic Party Candidate Shawn Oldenburg said the pandemic was a major concern for him during the campaign. (Submitted: Shawn Oldenburg)

    Fredericton’s New Democratic Party candidate, Shawn Oldenburg, said he felt comfortable and prepared to enter the election because of what he and his team accomplished in the past few weeks through their resources, time, conversations and fundraising.

    “I talked to a lot of great people who are leaders in their field in Fredericton on key issues and I’ve become very well educated, rather than what I just learn from reading. I spoke face-to-face [with] some people and enjoyed it,” said Oldenburg.

    The pandemic was a major concern for Oldenburg during the election season. He said a vote is not worth somebody getting sick on account of himself or his campaign volunteers. Oldenburg decided not to host an election viewing party because he didn’t want to expose himself to the community and possibly contribute to climbing COVID-19 case numbers in the province.

    “I chose not to [host a viewing party] because not only does it seem selfish for my own gain, it’s disrespectful.”

    Oldenburg said his biggest election regret was not attending STU’s debate to talk with students after being declined a virtual option.

    As it stands, Oldenburg has 13.1 per cent of the vote with only a few more winning ballots than the Greens.

    Regardless of the outcome, Oldenburg said it’s a step forward and he’s confident he ran for the right reasons.

    “The people of Fredericton will let me know if I did a good job or not,” he said. “But regardless, the fight doesn’t end.”

    Students weigh in

    Jason O’Hearn, a third-year communications and political science student, said he was very keen to see how the results show. (Rachel Smith/AQ)

    Fuelled by chocolate bars and Twizzlers, STU students gathered for a late-night watch party at the Off-Campus Lounge.

    “As a political science minor and a communications major, I’m very keen to see how election night will hold out,” said third-year Jason O’Hearn. “It’s great to be back in person and share this election with fellow students.”

    The event was put on by Get Out the Vote coordinator Emma Greene. The fourth-year STU student was happy to see students show up wearing their masks and following COVID-19 guidelines.

    Through her work with Get Out the Vote, Greene was relaying the importance of student voting. She said if a large number of students vote, it will show politicians that students care.

    “It’s just a way to show that student issues are valid,” said Greene.

    James Brennan, a first-year student at St. Thomas University, said Fredericton was “the riding to watch” on election night. (Rachel Smith/AQ)

    James Brennan cast his student vote in his home riding in Manitoba but still showed up at the OC Lounge to see how the Fredericton riding results would unfold. He called it “the riding to watch.”

    Brennan said he wants to see a government that functions better than the last, meaning he hoped to see a majority government.

    “The last couple of years have just been dysfunctional and a distraction,” said Brennan.

    In the next year, he hopes to see a more welcoming and collaborative government. Climate
    change, foreign policy and healthcare were at the top of his list for issues students should look out for.

    O’Hearn said students are facing job shortages after graduation and he hopes the government will turn to the [Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency] or other third-party organizations to fill the gap. As much as post-secondary education is a provincial matter, it should be supported on the federal level as well, he said.

    “I just hope whoever gets elected understands that with the increasing demand students are facing post-graduation, that there’s support for us,” said O’Hearn.

    O’Hearn predicted a minority government, which was confirmed later Monday night. He said he enjoys minority governments, like New Brunswick in 2018, because it forces politicians to work together and compromise.

    “When you become prime minister, you’re not the prime minister for your party membership, but you’re the prime minister for Canada,” said O’Hearn. “Same thing if you become MP, you’re not the MP for your members, but you’re MP for the citizens of your riding.”

    After over a year of pandemic shutdowns, the housing crisis and inflation, O’Hearn wants a leader who is ready to take on the job.

    Students will have to be patient as they wait for final election counts and for the Fredericton riding to be called. According to the Telegraph-Journal, due to a large number of mail-in ballots, it could take until Wednesday to have a final count for the Fredericton riding.

    The Aquinian’s election coverage team: Hana Delaney, Brooklyn Wilkins and Aaron Sousa (Liberal Party); Jacob Moore and Peter Jewett (Progressive Conservative Party); Hannah Rudderham, Jessi Saulnier and Estefania Martinez (Green Party); Summer Arsenault (NDP & OC Lounge); Rachel Smith (OC Lounge).