The race is on and it looks like heartaches
Undoubtedly it will be for some. But with apologies to George Jones, for most of us maybe not heartaches, but I don't sense much excitement either. With the fixed election date, of course it is no surprise, but it is official now - the fight for the helm of the good ship New Brunswick, is on.
As a political junkie, I’m excited to watch it play out. As a taxpaying citizen though, not so much excitement.
A few observations – while every election there is a chorus of people pleading for their fellow voters to stop jumping back and forth between the two traditional parties – tweedledee or tweedledum as they often put it, because, they say, one is as bad as the other. So, the chorus goes – try a different party. Nothing new there except, I sense that cynicism more widespread than ever before. The succession of one-term governments reflects this pessimism. But the polls pretty much prove that chorus isn’t loud enough just yet, with every other party polling in the single digits.
So it will either be Premier Gallant or Premier Higgs, at this point hard to say which, so while the real drama will be over which one prevails, an equally interesting thing to watch is whether it will be a minority government. At this point, that’s a real possibility, and for one, I’d welcome it.
There’s this myth out there that we need a majority government to get things done. But if history is anything to go by, that’s not true at all.
For one thing, a party holding the balance of power, even if it is simply one MLA, that member would be in a position to hold the government more accountable. For example, I like to think that if Gallant had had a minority government over the past four years, he wouldn’t have been able to get away with the lack of transparency his government has practiced, whether over the Shannex contracts or Medavie or whatever. And that’s just one example of how a minority government can benefit taxpayers.
There’s no specific ballot question, not yet anyway. But there is a definitive difference between the two mainline parties. The Liberals are spending like crazy, especially in Saint John, based on the tried and true strategy that you can buy people’s votes with their own money. The Tories, on the other hand, are hoping that for the first time in history, that strategy won’t work, and voters will see that Higgs offers the more responsible approach given our precarious economic reality.
The recent news of a budget surplus is good news for Gallant, but it’s temporary by the party’s own admission. Overall, the Liberal’s apparent total disregard for the province’s growing debt is by far the more relevant economic story. Whether a Higgs government would take doing something about it as seriously as economists including the Auditor General say is absolutely necessary, remains an unknown.
The other interesting thing to watch is to what extent we will end up with more of an English/French divide after the seats are decided. There is a possibility it could be more definitive than it has been in many elections.
Blaine Higgs doesn’t seem to be catching on as much as many Tories hoped he would, and his limitations in French could hurt in the north, and of course the Liberals won’t hesitate to remind voters of his COR history. But that said, if you look at the math, the Tories could win without any victories in the north. But they do have a few star francophone candidates that have a more than fair shot.
And as circumstances would have it, some of the best people are running against each other. In these ridings the sad thing is that someone who would be a real asset will lose, but on the positive side, these are also ridings where the voters can’t lose either way.
Here’s to hoping you are in one such riding.
I know there is a knock on politicians that in the end they are only out for number one. I can say without hesitation that that has not been my experience. And I spent a lot of years covering them as a reporter, and later working with many of them, of different stripes. Some, yes, they shouldn’t be there, but they are the exception. Most, by far, and this is across all party lines, are people who are in it for the right reasons. I get the cynicism of party politics, I share much of it, but we can all take some solace in the fact that there are a whole lot of good people all across the province, with their names on ballots.
In any case, it’s going to be a fun ride for the next 32 days, and counting.
Thanks for reading. Shares are always appreciated.
That every impressive cover photo of New Brunswick on this blog is courtesy of Larry Dickinson's website mynewbrunswick.ca