Blaine Higgs, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick, pumped his fists in the air when he entered the Lion’s Club in his home riding of Quispamsis, New Brunswick, while a crowd of about 45 people welcomed him with cheers.
Higgs was re-elected as premier on Sept. 14 with 27 seats for the PCs, two more than the 25 needed for a majority government. He’s the first premier to serve two terms since Bernard Lord in 2003.
Higgs said the victory is exciting and wants to take advantage of the momentum.
“I’ve seen this all over the province, and people are feeling better about New Brunswick,” he said.
When asked about the student vote and the lack of polls on campus, Higgs said the party would be representing “the voices of students.”
“I know it was a different election with the COVID experience going on, but I still like to think that all voices will be part of the decision-making process,” he said.
University of New Brunswick law student Alexandre Carleton was at the event. He said he’s happy with the results.
“I’m not necessarily an emotive person, but beneath the mask, I am smiling, I assure you,” he said.
In regards to systemic racism, Higgs said he agrees it is present in N.B. and other provinces in Canada. Past public inquiries in the province have generated 797 recommendations. Only 15 to 20 per cent of those have been implemented in the past 24 years.
Higgs said he wants to pick the inquiries that “make the most sense” and implement them.
“Let’s do something. Let’s not spend the next two or three years just talking about it, and then let’s look at the public inquiry aspects,” Higgs said.
“What’s missing that we haven’t done in past inquiries? How do we build the inquiry so that [it’s] actually going to answer those questions?”
Here’s how the rest of the night went for the other parties:
The Green Party
Fredericton South MLA and Green Party leader David Coon waved and thanked his supporters at Rustico in downtown Fredericton, around 30 people, after hearing he was re-elected in his home riding.
“I’m very thankful to the people in Fredericton South for putting their confidence in me once again, and I will get right back to work for them to address some of the big issues in our riding that I know people are concerned about,” Coon said.
“From access to health care and affordable housing to the need for the new performing arts centre and my favourite thing, which is a new aquatic centre.”
The party maintained its three seats in the legislature with no gains or losses. According to statistics, the party received 15.2 per cent of the popular vote and three seats.
Coon was vocal about his support for the student community in Fredericton. He said he would continue to push the Higgs government to ensure that students get the relief and assistance they need to attend post-secondary education.
Coon’s supporters include New Brunswickers of all ages, including students who are unable to vote like those in high school.
Green Party volunteer Edward Chang, 17, couldn’t vote this year’s election. But he did help out throughout the campaign by waving signs on the street, working in the office and dropping off flyers.
“I think it’s important to get involved as soon as you can to really get that knowledge so that once you are of age, you’re not really confused [and] you’re not conflicted,” Chang said.
“[Then] you don’t just decide to vote for one of the two big parties because they’re the ones who tend to be empowered most of the time.”
St. Thomas University student Nikita Spencer also attended the viewing party. She was the special events coordinator for the Green Party during the snap election. She said one of the things she likes about Coon and the Green Party is his caring attitude when canvassing. Still, she said she was nervous watching the poll results come in.
“Tonight, it was just a sigh of relief that he was elected and can continue to do the amazing work for his constituents,” Spencer said.
The Liberal Party
The New Brunswick Liberal Party held a viewing party at the Delta Hotel in Fredericton, where around ten people attended. Early in the evening, it was announced party leader Kevin Vickers would not participate in the viewing party, after losing to People’s Alliance MLA Michelle Conroy in their home riding of Miramichi. Instead, he gave a speech from his riding, where he announced that he would step down as the leader of the party.
“The people of New Brunswick have spoken,” he said.
New Brunswick Liberal Party campaign co-chair Stephanie Underhill Tomilson said she was disappointed at Vicker’s choice to step down.
“He’s a lovely gentleman and I think he would have been a good leader in New Brunswick,” she said.
Tomilson was also disappointed with Election New Brunswick’s decision not to have polling stations on university and college campuses in the province. As the principal of Fredericton High School and the former principal of Rothesay, she said she is “pro-student vote.”
“We are always looking after civics in the student vote,” she said.
“Students have come and they are used to the student [practice] vote and now that they had the opportunity, I felt that they should have been on campus.”
The Liberal party finished the night with 17 seats, four fewer than they had in 2018.
The New Democratic Party
The New Brunswick New Democratic Party also hosted a viewing party at the Delta Hotel in Fredericton, where around 20 people attended.
For the second provincial election in a row, the NDP did not win a seat in any riding. Interim party leader Mackenzie Thomason said he feels good despite the results.
“It wasn’t the results we were hoping for, but the people of New Brunswick have spoken and that is the democratic process,” he said.
Thomason said the party is going to regroup in the next couple of months to create a four-year plan.
In regards to the elimination of campus polls, Thomason said the decision was “terrible.” He said Higgs can’t call an election then “leave some parts out.”
“We need those polling stations to be there all the time. It should never be a question.”
NDP candidate for Riverview John Nuttall said he was “pissed off” about the decision to remove polling stations from campus. He stated that it was “an old man ‘Higgsy’ thing to do,” and the Conservatives were scared of young people coming out to voice their opinions.
As for the election results, Nuttall said it wasn’t as much of the popular vote as he would have liked to have seen, but his approval rate went up in his riding, so he was happy to see the growth.
The People’s Alliance
The Fredericton Inn was filled with approximately 40 People’s Alliance supporters dressed in purple to watch the provincial election happen live.
Cheers filled the room when party leader Kris Austin was re-elected as MLA for Fredericton-Grand Lake and when Michelle Conroy beat Liberal leader Kevin Vickers in her riding of Miramichi.
Alan Price, who ran in Fredericton North, was excited to see members of his party gain seats despite losing in his riding.
“Kris Austin, I think he’s a great leader. He’s got a great vision for this province, and I’m not surprised at all that he won. Michelle Conroy, in Miramichi, defeated Liberal leader Mr. Vickers, and I’m so proud and so happy for her as well,” he said.
Austin came to greet his supporters along with his family. He took to the podium to address the crowd and thanked them for their support and reassured that his party would follow their beliefs.
“We’re going to move forward, continuing to push for what we’ve pushed forward since day one,” he said.
Austin was hoping his party would land more seats, but he was still happy with the outcome.
“It’s a bittersweet moment. We were hopeful for the minority situation and to get more gains, but at the end of the day, we still got our foot in the door,” he said.
Austin’s family stayed for the entire viewing party, whom he attributes to being one of his biggest supporters.
His son Silas Austin, 15, was also hoping his father’s party would have gained more seats.
“I feel like in the next four years, people will know majority governments are not for New Brunswick,” he said.
“[New Brunswickers] will realize the Conservative government will not hold through and we’re going to make a comeback.”
The Aquinian’s provincial election coverage team: Diana Chávez and Matthew Daigle (Progressive Conservative Party), Hannah Rudderham (Green Party), Jasmine Gidney, Billy Cole and Aaron Sousa (Liberal Party and NDP) and Laura MacDonald (People’s Alliance). Live-tweet coverage: Hana Delaney.