Monday, March 19, 2018

Preparing for the 2018 provincial election

University of New Brunswick at Saint John political science professor J.P. Lewis University of New Brunswick at Saint John political science professor J.P. Lewis Submitted Photo

With the September election approaching, the New Brunswick Union (NBU) approached University of New Brunswick at Saint John political science professor J.P. Lewis for his preliminary take on a few issues.

According to the UNB website, "[Lewis] research interests are in cabinet government and citizenship education, with a focus on Canada. He teaches courses on Canadian government and politics, provincial politics, federalism, elections and political parties and Canadian politics and the media.
He recently co-edited a book with Professor Joanna Everitt on federal conservative parties in Canada. The Blueprint: Conservative parties and their impact on Canadian politics is published by the University of Toronto Press. "

Below is the question and answer conducted with Lewis.

NBU: What issues are shaping up to be the defining ones of the Sept. election?

Lewis: As of now there is no clear policy question like fracking in 2014, so I would say the ballot question is shaping up to be the traditional economic question of who can best manage/guide the provincial economy.
Closely attached to this, I believe, will be a leadership question between Gallant and Higgs and who New Brunswickers trust best with leading the government. Because of a number of unforced errors or communication challenges that the Liberal government has experienced, I could see Gallant being on the defence for quite a bit of this. Higgs is obviously unique because while going after Gallant’s record he may have to end up defending his own from when he was finance minister from 2010-2014. This could muddy issues such as the quest for a balanced budget.

NBU: There's been talk and effort made to see an increase in women candidates this election cycle. Have these efforts worked? Do you see the recent articles pertaining to Liberal candidate Susan Holt as being helpful or harmful in this regard?

Lewis: The public service/partisan debate around Holt I think was expected and maybe appropriate, but it concerned me when the issue of being on maternity leave crept into the discussion. Anytime it appears a relatively high profile public leader takes the risk of jumping into political fray and if it comes from an underrepresented group such as women or visible minorities, negative media attention could definitely be harmful when recruiting others.
To be honest I’m not sure if the recruitment effort has been successful because I’m still working on my excel candidate database – not sure if the parties are ahead or behind from 2014.

NBU: Last election, the Green Party broke through winning the riding of Fredericton South. Can either of the other parties currently without a seat in the Legislature breakthrough this time around?

Lewis: Kris Austin was close in his riding in 2014 so yes, there could be a chance there and the new NDP leader, Jennifer McKenzie, I believe is running in Saint John Harbour which has elected an NDP MLA before so if it is going to happen anywhere again, that could be the most likely place.
Outside of the leaders’ ridings I haven’t seen any major challengers – but this is just so far, who knows who they may recruit between now and election day. As well – the non-PC/Lib parties did get 1/5 of the popular vote in 2014. It just wasn’t efficient, only delivering one seat.

NBU: Are there any particular ridings or regions of the province you think will be key in determining the outcome of the election?

Lewis: As I said in my answer to question two, I’m still pulling my own data together, but without that there definitely will be a number of competitive ridings especially in the Fredericton and Saint John areas.
Any ridings that were close in 2014 or have a recent history of switching parties - and if there is no incumbent - can really throw uncertainty into predicting the results.