Wednesday, September 10, 2014
New Brunswick NDP
The party's greatest asset is Dominic Cardy. While I still question his political astuteness, his charisma is something that can not be denied. Cardy was born in the UK in 1970, making him 44 years old; middle of the pack for the top 3 leaders. You can see from his videos that he speaks with ease, with few pauses for "ah"s and "um"s and speaks French well (far better than I do anyway) but possibly (and likely) with an accent.
The party under Cardy has positioned itself as a moderate and modern alternative. Even the official platform lacks many of the buzz words of NDPs past. Ironic, perhaps, for the NDP branch perhaps most known for being disbanded due to left-wing radicals taking control.
Much of the history of the NB NDP is similar to other branches. The party has been known to swing back and forth on the spectrum, from radical socialism, to very pro-Labour stances. The NDP's most successful leader in the province, Elizabeth Weir, was known to be more on the socialist side of the debate, yet also can be seen as a moderate when compared to 'socialists' in places like Toronto or Vancouver. Weir was only the second New Democrat elected in the province, and the only one to manage re-election, getting re-elected a total of 4 times. Much of the history of the NB NDP is the history of Weir's NDP.
Weir's presence in the legislature became commonplace over this period, and even at times without NDP representation, the media has still turned to the NDP to get another opinion on various matters. Weir's riding in the heart of Saint John helped the party become well established in the area. Vote patterns suggest that should the NDP ever see support levels like that found in Nova Scotia, the party would end up "based out of" Saint John, much the way their sister party was "based out of" Halifax.
There are, however, important pockets of support elsewhere. Cardy has worked hard to boost support in Fredericton, while the party also has done relatively well in Moncton, despite many of the recent Liberal and Tory Premiers calling the area home. There are also pockets of support within Acadian areas that the party is keen to see grow, with one of the possibilities being in Restigouche West, an area of the province known for being against the grain; not only was it the closest the Acadian Party came to a seat, but it was also the seat most likely to flip had Frank McKenna not managed to sweep every seat.
The NDP is also respected within the province as having some quality ideas. The party was at the forefront of the auto insurance debate before it exploded, and Weir herself enjoyed wide support and respect, even if her party struggled at the polls.
There are some ridings the NDP could easily win and others the party could struggle to take. These two maps outline extreme conditions at the upper end of possible:
As can be more clearly seen on the bottom map, much of the hope of the party comes in a few select ridings. Four candidates in particular have a shot at victory.
1 - Dominic Cardy. The leader is running in Fredericton West, and has put a great effort to win that seat. If Cardy is able to do what he did during the by-election, he could well take the riding, and due to his personal profile, if he does, he'll likely be able to hold on to it.
2 - Bev Harrison. Sitting MLA he was elected for the Tories in the last election. Running in Hampton, his success comes down to how many voters are willing to follow him in to his new party. With limited information, it is presumed he is doing alright in this aspect, and may manage to get re-elected.
3 - Gary Stackhouse. Running in Saint John Harbour, the riding once held by Weir, Stackhouse is known for being a radio host, not something to balk at. Due to a high personal profile and a strong riding to run in, there is a good chance that he could be elected in any multi-member NDP caucus.
4 - Kelly Lamrock. Like Bev as noted above, he is a former MLA; this time from the Liberals, and in fact, a former Cabinet minister. I would expect should the NDP elect members, Lamrock would be among them.
In the end the NDP is fighting an uphill battle against the traditional two-party dominance found in the atlantic. This election could be the start of a new breakthrough for them, or could be yet another heartache for supporters that sees no real movement.