FREDERICTON — After making inroads in recent provincial elections across Canada, the Green party is looking for fresh gains when New Brunswickers go to the polls next month.
Currently, provincial Green Leader David Coon is the party’s only member in the legislature, having won in 2014, and political scientist Tom Bateman says Coon is likely to win his seat again.
“He has been an articulate MLA and a very good constituency MLA,” said Bateman, of St. Thomas University in Fredericton.
The party is concentrating on a couple of key ridings, with federal Green Leader Elizabeth May in the province to help campaign this week.
“I feel quite confident in David Coon, having had a spectacular record in four years. I have every expectation when the election is over and he returns to the legislature he will return with a caucus of Green MLAs from New Brunswick,” May said Thursday.
She spent a couple days campaigning with Coon in his Fredericton South riding and with Megan Mitton — the party’s candidate in the Sackville-area riding of Memramcook-Tantramar.
The two ridings are seen by many as the Greens’ best chances to win seats, and May said she is seeing a groundswell of support.
“In 20 minutes in Sackville we raised $24,000. In 20 minutes last night at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery we raised $17,000. You don’t have people showing up for fundraisers in large numbers unless there’s something going on. And there’s something definitely going on in New Brunswick,” she said.
Bateman said parts of Memramcook-Tantramar, home of Mount Allison University, are much like David Coon’s Fredericton riding, and many people there could be looking for a new place to put their vote.
“It is a university community and there has been some support for the left historically, so maybe,” Bateman said.
To make gains Sept. 24, Bateman said he expects the Greens will have to be on the popular side of a particular issue, especially in ridings that feature multi-party races.
“That means they could get in with 35 to 40 per cent of the vote,” Bateman said.
Across the country, the Greens now have eight elected members, having made gains in British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.
On P.E.I., the Greens now have two MLAs — and polls have suggested they are in second place as the province heads towards an expected provincial election next year.
Greens in New Brunswick have consistently placed third in the polls, but Coon said he believes that will change.
“People are really looking this election for an alternative. They’re tired of the flip-flopping back and forth between Liberals and Tories. They don’t see much difference between them.”
Coon said more than half his candidates are women, three are Indigenous, several are millennials, and there’s an octogenarian.
Bateman said aside from the Liberal, Tory, and Green parties, candidates for the People’s Alliance Party and former Liberal Speaker — now independent — Chris Collins in Moncton could play a significant role on election night.
“If we can get two or three alternative MLAs in there, they could very well hold the balance of power and make politics in New Brunswick interesting again,” Bateman said, noting that the governing Liberals don’t currently hold a majority.
At dissolution, the seat count in the legislature was 24 Liberals, 22 Progressive Conservatives, one Green, one independent and one vacancy.
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