Friday, June 8, 2012

Better Know a Provincial Electoral District: Rothesay

On June 25th, the voters in the provincial district of Rothesay, New Brunswick, will be heading to the polls to vote in a new Member of the Legislative Assembly after Margaret-Ann Blaney, Rothesay's representative since 1999, resigned in order to become CEO of Efficiency NB, as appointed by the current Premier, David Alward.

Why does this little by-election matter, you wonder? After all, Blaney, a Progressive Conservative, has held the riding through good times and bad, and as of right now, the New Brunswick PCs are polling far ahead of their Liberal and NDP rivals. As shown below, the riding has been reliably Conservative, winning all but three elections since the introduction of single-member districts in the 1974 election.

Well, this by-election is a major one considering that current New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy will be running in the by-election, hoping to steal away the riding from the PC government and become the first NDP MLA in the province since Elizabeth Weir's retirement in 2005. This at a time when the NDP are polling near 20%, almost double the result they managed in 2010 under old leader Roger Duguay, when they won no seats.

Problem is, of course, that doubling the vote in Rothesay still only nets the NDP 20% of the vote. Suffice to say, it is not a riding that is high up on the target list for the NB NDs.

But Cardy, who is a noted espouser of "Third Way" social democracy, was co-founder of the old NDProgress, and was a keynote introductory speaker for Thomas Mulcair at the 2012 leadership race, cannot be counted out in the least. While he won't be riding a wave of anti-PC votes to victory, he could very easily place ahead of the currently leaderless Liberals, who maintain second place in polls, but could be outclassed in a by-election like this.

But placing ahead of the Liberals in a by-election is one thing - actually winning the riding is another. In 2010, Blaney won all 27 polling districts in Rothesay, and placed below 40% in only one of them.

In short, it will be a tough hill to climb for Cardy. Amusingly enough, former NDP Leader George Little (1980-1988) ran twice in this riding, earning a respectable 31.6% and second-place finish in 1987. At the same time, remember that 1987 was the year that Frank McKenna's Liberals swept every single riding in the province due to backlash against Richard Hatfield.

There is no such backlash this time, as the government is popular and, at least according to the polls, people are not willing to abandon the Liberals in the province just yet. But the main issue is the fact that the PCs remain fairly popular all throughout the province, and even the poll that put then ahead in the Saint John region awhile back could not tip this riding over to Cardy on a pure swing basis.

That being said, we could be entering whole new territory. Cardy has clear momentum, and New Brunswickers are not adverse to voting NDP federally. My prediction, this far out, is that Cardy comes in second, but unless Alward declares war on Cottonelle kittens, the hill is just too steep to climb for a win. And as Roger Duguay before him found out, coming in second means squat if you can't win the riding.

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