Friday, September 12, 2014

Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick

Here is a fun fact that most people don't know, but I do (because I asked). The NB PC Party used to claim 300,000 members.

No, I didn't add an extra 0 in there. 300,000 people, a little under half the population of New Brunswick, were considered by the PC Party to be members. How? Simple; it costs $10 to join the party, and once you are in, you are in. There was no annual membership fee, so your membership would never lapse, the only way out was to ask to leave.

I'm not 100% certain that this has changed, but the membership page suggests somewhat, with free lifetime upgrades available; though it now requires action on the part of the prospective member; a default opt-out and not a default opt-in.

The policies supported by the incumbent government are generally what you'd expect to see from a provincial PC Party in the Atlantic. The only real "right-wing" policy the party has is on fracking, which it backs to the hilt.

The history of the party is rather interesting, or at least, I think so.

Before 1935, officially, there were no political parties in provincial politics in New Brunswick. Despite that, the media (and public) generally knew if a premier was Liberal or Conservative. As well, it was quite easy to find out who are the supporters and opponents of said premier within the legislature. This is why I've added, and insisted it be kept, a list of "parties" forming the government. to the New Brunswick election wiki page. You can see that like in Nova Scotia (though not to the same extreme) the Liberals had been more successful for the early history of New Brunswick. The first modern PC government to sit for more than two terms was that under Richard Hatfield.

Prior to Hatfield, an election result like this was commonplace. With the Tories doing very well in English and Anglophone areas, and the Liberals sweeping the Acadian areas, with places like Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton, and Mirimichi swinging towards the government of the day.

To a degree, this pattern still exists, however it was the government of Hatfield that really brought Acadians in to the PC Party in a big way, purposefully as well.

This (on the left) is Hatfield's last victory. You can see he did rather well in Acadian areas, winning nearly half of the seats. Prior to Hatfield the Acadian vote had been relied on to consistently go Liberal, where as since then, the Acadian vote simply "trends" Liberal, meaning the PC Party can expect a handful of Acadian seats, in victory or defeat.

1987 was a terrible year for the Tories. Hatfield, facing major scandals, waited until the last legal day to call the election, and was rewarded by winning 0 seats. In the following election in 1991 the party finished third behind the Confederation of Regions. It was not until 1995 that we would again see a PC leader of the Opposition in the province. Even then, Hatfield's legacy remained, with the majority of the PC caucus being Acadian, as well as it's leader, the current minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

1999 saw young Bernard Lord, a Quebecois by birth, win 44 out of 55 seats. The Lord government was seen, especially in it's first term, as competent and moderate. The major problem for Lord was the rising rates for car insurance.

I actually lived in New Brunswick during this period. I was told by one insurer that if I went with them, my yearly rate would be $15,000. And again, I did not accidentally add another 0. In short, they purposefully charged so much to avoid having 18 year olds on their policy list. The Tories nearly lost the 2003 election, which came as a shock to many, but managed to hang on by just 1 seat.

By 2006, "Tanker" Malley had quit the party and forced an election. (Tanker is running in Miramichi as an Independent) and the election of that year saw the Liberals pick up just the few seats needed to form a very narrow government, despite the PC Party winning the popular vote. In this election the Liberals managed to win 50%+1 of the Anglophone ridings, while the Tories won 41% of the Acadian ridings, making the first real "balanced" split for both parties among the province's two language communities.

By 2010, the Liberals, seen as unable to fix the problems facing the province, were gone. This was the first time in the history of the province that a political party had not been re-elected to a second term in government. And now, in 2014, it looks like the PC Party will suffer the same fate as all the polls point to a Liberal victory.

The Tories don't stand much of a chance of winning, but if pushed to the extreme, the party might be able to have a very strong showing.

The same old English-French vote pattern is clear, however, with the Liberals having regained their foothold among Acadian voters.

The party retains support in the Madawaska region, but it's largest base of support is among Protestant Anglophone voters in the province's central heartland along the Saint John river, and west to the US border.

An updated Electo(non)Matic can be found here:
Note the changes to the colourization.

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