New Brunswick Election - The Morning After
We have a Liberal majority, but only barely. 29-26 is hardly a crushing defeat for the Conservatives, who took more of the popular vote than the Liberals.
Can we really speak of a mandate for Shawn Graham's Liberals? His victory speech last night seemed to indicate that he thought his agenda had won major support from New Brunswickers. I don't read it that way. This election appears to have turned on a hospital closure in the Northeast, which mobilized a few ridings to vote Liberal and oust their local Conservative MLA. [UPDATE: It seems I didn't look at the riding results as closely as I should have, and instead focussed on popular vote, which has the Liberals strongest in the Northeast. Only one seat switched in that region. I still maintain that a few local issues played a bigger role in this campaign than a wholesale ideological shift in the province.]
Otherwise, this was a humdrum campaign which failed to capture the imagination of most New Brunswickers. By and large, there wasn't a wave of discontent with Bernard Lord or an overwhelming desire for change. Nor did Graham promise massive change, in my opinion. The voters have him on a very short tether, and will let him have his shot at governing, but they could return the province to the Conservative fold just as easily.
The bigger question for me is what does this mean for the leaders of the other two parties? I figure that Alison Brewer will likely step down in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully the terrible defeat suffered by the party (their worst showing since 1974) will lead to a major rethinking of the party's direction, and they will pick an effective bilingual communicator to lead the NDP through a rebuilding (or to be more accurate - building) phase.
And what of Bernard Lord, darling of the national media? In Ontario, he was long portrayed as the great centrist hope for Conservative renewal. A year in New Brunswick has me wondering what the hype was about. He's not loved here, but neither is he hated. Those who like him like that he's bilingual and a competent administrator. He's not viewed as a man of expansive vision. Outside of the province, this may not be so obvious, because so little attention is paid to New Brunswick politics. (Note that this morning, the New Brunswick election, which led to a change in government, was the number three story on the Globe's website, under Harper's announcement that Canada would stay in Afghanistan). I think that this defeat will certainly put any chance of Lord leaping into federal politics on hold - people don't like a loser. Six years from now, if he leads the Conservatives back into power, it may be a different story. But in the short term, I just don't see it happening.
I suspect that with the election over, my attentions will probably drift back to federal and Quebec politics. I'll keep an eye on what's going on here, but this blog will be less New Brunswick-focussed for the next little while. Recommend this Post