The People’s Alliance: Where to go from 2014?

Being the fifth out of five parties is not an enviable position to be in for the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick. It’s been six years since the party was first formed and it is interesting to note the direction it has taken in those six years. Formed seemingly as a protest party it has developed nicely into a fringe party in the province, slowly eating away at the popular support of the bigger parties. But where do these votes come from – and where will they come from in the future?

Despite garnering only 2.14% of popular support in the 2014 election there is a bit more going on than that. Running a slim slate of 18 candidates (in 49 ridings) the party received 5.88% of popular support in ridings it ran in. The highest  received was leader Kris Austin’s 28.48% in Fredericton-Grand Lake. Due to the joys of vote-splitting within the first-past the-post electoral method, Austin lost his riding by a mere 25 votes behind the PCs Pam Lynch. Liberal Sheri Shannon finished 47 votes behind Austin, meaning that all three finished within a percentage point of each other.

Other PANB candidates saw varying degrees of success. Former Liberal Leroy Armstrong received 10.39% of the vote in Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins, good for third behind the PCs and Liberals. Wes Gullison received 8.61% in Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin, again good for third in that riding. Three other PANB candidates received over 5% popular support in their ridings. Compare this to 2010’s results where only three candidates received over 5% in their ridings (with Austin topping at 19.95%) and the improvement is obvious.

panb-top-five-results-2010-2014

The overall improvement is a popular vote total increasing from 4,389 in 2010 to 7,964 in 2014, a total improvement of 1.18% to 2.14%. What is even more important to note is where these votes come from, and in what ridings the PANB does well in. All of the ridings are similar, and all of the areas where they succeed in receiving votes are similar as well.

In the Albert riding, where Bill Brewer received 7.66% of the total vote, these votes were gleaned from the more rural areas of the riding. Hillsborough voted 11.58% for PANB, and 12.20% in Riverside-Albert. This is compared to sub-4% in the more urban Riverview. LeRoy Armstrong’s results in Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins are similar. His total of 10.39% is buffeted by 12.84% received in areas like Bloomfield, Passekeag, and Moosehorn Creek. Armstrong was second in voting in Apohaqui and a consistent third place through Roachville and Penobsquis. However, in more metro Sussex, he lost ground to the NDP and Liberals, the latter of which he would push for second in some rural areas of the riding.

 

Similar numbers can be seen in Joyce Wright in Charlotte-Campobello and, of course, with leader Kris Austin in Fredericton-Grand Lake – where Austin easily swept Chipman and Minto before losing support as the riding moved towards Fredericton. Gullison’s numbersare aided by a 28% showing (and 2nd place) in Upper Miramichi, which evaporates to just above 2% in Baie-Ste-Anne.

The ridings where the PANB received more than 5% of the total vote are the following:

  • Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin
  • Albert
  • Sussex-Fundy-St.Martins
  • Charlotte-Campobello 
  • Fredericton-Grand Lake 
  • Carleton-York

None of these ridings are within the Big Three cities of New Brunswick, although a few are on their borders. These ridings are mostly rural and encompass some medium-sized centres, most notably Sussex and St. Stephen.

So what does this all mean? Simply put, the PANB does well in Angolophone, rural New Brunswick. This isn’t an overly shocking revelation. For the PANB, they’re a simple, easy, and rather straightforward party with simple, easy, and relatable policy points. They do have some lofty goals that I think would be difficult to implement (such as free voting for MLAs in the Legislature) but I think some of their policies are well-intentioned moving forward.

With the future of rural NB very much up in the air (as noted on this blog frequently), and a population increasingly becoming urbanized, are the PANB going to be the party that represents the dwindling rural population of the province? Perhaps. For the PANB to increase their support they’ll need the rural population for sure, but will also need to break in a bit more in more urban areas. Of course, the PANB would benefit from a larger slate as well, and would do well with candidates in Gagetown-Petitcodiac and New Maryland-Sunbury. The issue of Francophone voters will have to be resolved over time: PANB candidates in Kent North and Kent South received 1.44% and 1.96% respectively in 2014.

In 2010 PANB only fielded 14 candidates in 55 ridings (25% of ridings). In 2014 that number increased to 18 candidates in 49 ridings (37%). For 2018, i’d imagine a good goal for them to have would be having candidates in at least half of the province’s ridings. That means finding seven more candidates. The PANB fared decently well in some ridings in 2010 for which they had no candidates in for 2014, including areas like Miramichi, Saint John and the Fundy Isles. Expanding in areas like suburban Fredericton and filling in the remainder of the rural anglophone ridings would likely see them poke above the 10,000 vote barrier with their current trending.

What would help the PANB immensely would be Austin winning his riding in 2018, similar to the Greens breaking through in Fredericton-South in 2014 with David Coon. Having that exposure and ability to have an outlet on the public stage would be huge for the party in legitimizing itself. A lot of voters in NB think that the PANB are an anti-Francophone party and are keen to place their votes elsewhere. Having their leader in the Legislature would legitimize them immensely and help with their exposure moving forward. Exposure to the public is key, as well as not looking like a temporary fixture. The PANB are moving there slowly but surely, which will require patience and a keen eye for policy points. So far the party and Austin have done well in that regard.

In terms of other parties, a lot depends on the future of the PC Party Leadership race. The PANB are surely hoping a candidate like Monica Barley comes out as the winner. Having other hopefuls win, like Jake Stewart or Mike Allen, would almost certainly eat into PANB’s rural vote and provide for a big roadblock for their increased exposure. Having Barley win wouldn’t affect their goal areas as much, it has to be said.

The Liberal Government’s policies have come across varyingly in different areas of the province. One area that should be noted is St. Stephen, where the Liberals were pushing for the alteration/reduction of services to the hospital in that town, leading to protest. PANB has garnered over 6% of the vote in Charlotte-Campobello the past two elections and one has to think that number will rise as more and more pressure is applied to the rural area from Fredericton and the larger urban centres. The PANB must be watching the situation closely, just as leader Kris Austin was with the Potash Mine closure in Sussex earlier on in the Liberal mandate. These are prime areas for the PANB to make some serious gains in 2018.

panb-municip-results-2014

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Urban and Suburban Voting Patterns and Trends

The past decade has been a turbulent one for sitting Governments in New Brunswick. In three consecutive elections in 2006, 2010, and 2014 the incumbent government has lost. The 2014 election continued this trend by ushering out the Alward PC Government and voting in the Gallant Liberal Government. There were various reasons for why this occurred – this article will examine urban and suburban centres of the province, analyzing how much the urban and suburban vote is increasing as a percentage of the total provincial vote.

New Brunswick’s three largest municipalities are Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John. Surrounding these cities are suburbs which are not within the municipal boundaries of these larger cities. For this article I have separated suburb voting from city voting and at times have also merged them to create something called “Metropolitan Voting”. The metropolitan areas break down as follows:

Greater Fredericton: Fredericton, Hanwell, Lincoln, Oromocto, New Maryland
Greater Moncton: Dieppe, Moncton, Riverview
Greater Saint John: Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis, Rothesay, Saint John

Similar to proposals and recommendations found in the Finn Report on Local Governance (2009) which emphasized creating regional municipalities combining urban cities and their suburban municipal partners I have combined the two to create a voting bloc. There are voting trends within these municipalities, of course, as well as within their own metropolitan areas.

Official voting turnout dropped by nearly five percentage points between the 2010 and 2014 elections. Turnout in the Metropolitan areas were as follows:

Province of New Brunswick 2010 – 69.56%
Province of New Brunswick 2014 – 64.65%

Greater Fredericton 2010 – 64.39%
Greater Fredericton 2014 – 65.72%

Greater Moncton 2010 – 65.31%
Greater Moncton 2014 – 59.45%

Greater Saint John 2010 – 60.88%
Greater Saint John 2014 – 56.55%

Without spending too much time dwelling on why turnout decreased (varying pertinent issues, incumbent governments, policies, etc.) I will instead examine the change in the raw number of votes. New Brunswick’s demographics are slowly shifting away from rural voters to urban and suburban based voters. New Brunswick lags behind other provinces in this regard but it nonetheless is still happening (and will speed up as rural areas become older). This can be seen in the recent redistribution of provincial ridings in 2012 & 2013 where the overall number of ridings decreased from 55 for the 2010 Election to 49 in the 2014 Election. Northern New Brunswick lost the most ridings as a percentage of total seats as their demographic change has warranted it, whereas Southeastern New Brunswick, an area of growth, saw very little change in their ridings (losing 0.5 of a riding).

As a result of this the urban and suburban areas (“Metropolitan Areas”) have increased their share of ridings, and therefore influence in the legislature and government, as their demographic might has increased. In the 2010 Election the Metropolitan Areas accounted for the following percentages of total votes cast in the Province:
Greater Fredericton – 8.84%
Greater Moncton – 13.38%
Greater Saint John – 11.83%
Total Combined – 34.06%

Here are the same numbers for 2014:
Greater Fredericton – 9.83%
Greater Moncton – 13.77%
Greater Saint John – 11.71%
Total Combined – 35.31%

Overall the Metro Areas combined saw a 1.25% increase in their share of total votes cast in a four year span. This increase includes a lower turnout percentage (63.47% in 2010 to 60.02%) in the three combined, meaning that their total number of electors as a percentage of provincial electors increased by a larger margin than their vote totals. We see a large gain in Metro Fredericton with modest gains in Moncton and Saint John. Although the City of Saint John saw its percentage go down the Metro area of the City still increased thanks to a population, and therefore a voter, increase in Quispamsis.

Metropolitan Area Voting Patterns
Metropolitan Voting Area figures for 2010 and 2014 Provincial Elections

Within the metropolitan areas the numbers become more obvious. Dieppe, New Brunswick’s fastest growing city, has increased from having roughly 13,000 electors (eligible voters) in 2003 to having nearly 19,000 in 2014. Because New Brunswick’s ridings average roughly 11,500/12,000 electors Dieppe’s influence has gone from the equivalent of one riding to one and a half (and nearly two by 2018) ridings in the span of a decade.

In terms of voting power Dieppe’s share of votes cast in Provincial elections has increased from 2.28% in 2003 to 3.32% in 2014. This doesn’t appear like a large increase until you compare it to other municipalities across the province:

Dieppe 2.28% – 2003 – 1.84% Bathurst
Dieppe 2.66% – 2006 – 1.91% Bathurst
Dieppe 3.03% – 2010 – 1.92% Bathurst
Dieppe 3.32% – 2014 – 1.62% Bathurst

 

You can do this for a number of different municipalities going in opposite directions. In the 2014 election Hanwell and Lincoln had more combined voters than Campbellton for the first time in the province’s history. Campbellton has had the biggest drop of any large municipality in the province in terms of voting power:
Campbellton – 1.82% – 1999
Campbellton – 1.24% – 2003
Campbellton – 1.27% – 2006
Campbellton – 1.19% – 2010
Campbellton – 0.96% – 2014

That’s Campbellton’s voting power in the province cut in half in 15 years, and a raw drop in voters from 7,185 in 1999 to 3,564 in 2014. Demographic trends mean that these numbers will continue to decrease for Campbellton and other municipalities not connected to the larger Metropolitan Areas.

Suburban and other Metro Voting Patterns
Although no mention of them was made i’ve included party performance in each municipality with no additional comment.

What’s most obvious is that New Brunswick’s suburbs of major cities are carrying the most growth in population and that means an increase in total voters. The suburbs of Dieppe, Grand Bay-Westfield, Hanwell, Lincoln, New Maryland, Oromocto, Rothesay, and Quispamsis accounted for 8.35% of total votes cast in the 2010 election. Four years later this figure increased to 9.97%. In raw numbers that is an increase from 31,100 voters to 37,066 voters despite total voter turnout decreasing.

To make things simpler, the total number of eligible voters in New Brunswick’s suburbs increased from 52,068 in 2010 to 57,867 in 2014. With most parts of the province stalling on population growth, and dropping in many rural areas, the suburbs are increasing their clout as a voting bloc in the province.

On the NDP & Dominic Cardy

Yesterday, The SUN’s Ottawa Bureau Chief David Akin made the completely serious suggestion that New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy should enter the race to be the next leader of the Federal NDP following the vote Sunday to cast aside Thomas Mulcair. The vote, along with the approval of the Leap Manifesto, was a clear swing to the left for the Federal NDP following the blitzkreig that was their 2015 election.

Cardy’s resume is surely fine enough but he has never been successful in winning a seat. Cardy is also too far to the right of the spectrum politically for where the NDP are aiming. Mulcair found them no votes in the centre and lost a lot elsewhere in the process. Similarly, Cardy has found some votes for the NDP in the centre in NB but it hasn’t been concentrated enough to win a seat.

So nevermind Cardy running for the Federal NDP Leadership – what does he need to do to win a seat in the New Brunswick Legislature? What riding would this be? First we need to take a look at what he’s working with.

The NDP have been NB’s historic third party. In their history, founded as a continuation of the Federal CCF in 1933 and becoming today’s NDP in 1962, they have never elected more than one member to the legislature at any given time. In total they’ve had three different members in the legislature, most notably Elizabeth Weir. Weir was elected four times in Saint John South/Saint John Harbour between 1991 and 2003, sitting from 1991 until 2005.

As arguably the strongest and most influential NDP member in New Brunswick history she barely won her 1991 bid; winning by 89 votes over Liberal incumbent John Mooney. Election 1995 saw her margin of victory widen to just under 1,000 votes. Election 1999 was a 1,000+ margin, with  Election 2003 being a whopping 1,700 vote margin between her and her nearest competitor. The PC and Liberal runners could have combined their vote totals and still would have fallen short of victory in that contest. In the end, Weir lead the party for 17 years from 1988 to 2005, failing to have any NDP members elected to the legislature besides herself. During her tenure as leader the NDP’s strongest consistent base was the Saint John area surrounding her riding – in 2003 the party attained 17.2% of the Greater Saint John vote. The NDP could barely muster the occasional second place finish and never really challenged for a seat anywhere else in the province.

The post-Weir NDP saw Allison Brewer become leader, placing a distant third in Fredericton-Lincoln whilst Roger Duguay finished a respectable third in Miramichi Bay-Neguac in 2006. By the 2010 election Duguay had become leader, and the Northeast became the NDP’s strongest vote-getting region. Duguay managed second in his riding in 2010 but still lost by more than 1,300 votes. There were respectable showings in Saint John but these results and others can be seen mostly as a result of dissatisfied Liberals attempting to escape the Shawn Graham regime.

By 2014 Dominic Cardy had become leader, shifting the support base away from the Northeast and towards Fredericton. In this election the NDP netted 12.98% of the total Provincial vote – the strongest result in their history. Cardy lost his riding by 400 votes in a three-way race in Fredericton West-Hanwell, meaning the NDP would be unrepresented in the Legislature for the third consecutive election.

It’s clear that NDP support floats around the province following its leader depending on the election. As of this writing Cardy is still leader; the stability of which should benefit the party if they plan on centralizing their campaign in the next election. In 2014 they ran an above-average Provincial campaign but failed to do well enough in any particular riding to gain a seat. This is compared to the Greens who piled on to David Coon’s campaign in Fredericton South: Despite receiving less than half of the total votes of the NDP provincially the Greens won a seat and would be represented in the Legislature.

The lesson here is that if parties are to be represented they must have good provincial optics but must also balance strong regional and local campaigns. Although NDP results have come with their leaders they haven’t been strong enough to warrant being elected; this could change in the future. Cardy’s choice of riding in 2014 was intriguing, as he was up against a strong PC incumbent in Brian Macdonald (now in the PC Leadership Race)…had he chosen a different riding (perhaps even a different Fredericton riding) he could have won and been in the legislature.

So where do the NDP go from here? For starters Cardy, who has seemingly escaped the fate that Mulcair found himself in federally, will have to run in a riding where the NDP have done historically well and try his best to not run against an experienced and strong opponent. Perhaps the best riding for Cardy to run in in 2018 would be Hampton. There are a couple things to support this:

  1. – The NDP finished second in Hampton in 2014 with candidate Bev Harrison
    (ex-PC incumbent) receiving 25.97% of the vote. The former riding of
    Hampton-Kings gave the NDP 15.94% and 12.83% in 2010 and 2006
    respectively; good totals for them.
  2. – Hampton swallowed up parts of the old Saint John East and Saint John
    Fundy ridings for the 2014 election following riding redistribution. The
    area moved from Saint John Fundy, in particular, voted over 30% for the
    NDP/Harrison in 2014 (the Red Head and Garnett Settlement areas).
  3. – Cardy ran in a byelection in Saint John East shortly after the 2014
    election –  triggered when Liberal incumbent Gary Keating decided politics wasn’t his
    thing immediately after winning the riding. Cardy managed to win 21.88% of
    the vote in this byelection and should already have some exposure and name
    recognition in the area.
  4. – Likewise, Cardy also ran in Rothesay in a 2012 byelection, receiving
    27.27% of the vote.

Depending on if Harrison wants to run again in Hampton it would seem a reasonable riding for the NDP to target with or without Cardy.

The Fredericton Silverwood riding, which became part of the new Fredericton West-Hanwell riding where Cardy ran his full campaign in 2014, did vote 16.08% for the NDP in 2010, which was a good base for the NDP and Cardy to build off of. However, PC Brian Macdonald was the incumbent and is popular in the area – this decision to run against him likely cost Cardy a seat in the legislature.

Saint John Harbour is another possible landing point for Cardy to look for a seat in the legislature. Harbour was former leader Elizabeth Weir’s seat but since her departure the NDP’s popular vote percentage has fallen in the riding from Weir’s 43.39% in 2003 to 17.13% (2005BY), 12.38% (2006), 27.69% (2010), and 21.39% in 2014.

The issue for the NDP and Cardy is that Saint John Harbour is a bit of a crowded house and Cardy would be wise to avoid it. Rumours of soon-to-be-former Saint John mayor Mel Norton’s run for the PCs would likely have him running in Harbour against Liberal incumbent Ed Doherty with little room for Cardy to gain much traction. There is also the risk of former NDP candidate Wayne Dryer running again for the Greens as he did in 2014. Dryer garnered the highest vote % for the NDP in Harbour since Weir’s departure and in 2014 garnered the Greens highest vote % in Harbour at 13%.

(It’s worth noting that the Greens finished second in voting in the South End portion of this Harbour riding and third in the ‘Uptown’ area, which i’ll certainly touch on in a future post.)

Outside of Hampton and Harbour, Fredericton is likely still Cardy’s best bet, whether in West-Hanwell again or elsewhere. Fredericton North? Fredericton -York? Cardy’s optics of bouncing around and parachuting into byelections around the province shows desperation at an attempt to win a seat. If the NDP were wise they would plant Cardy in a riding for years, and years, and have him build up enough of a base to make a serious charge at running a strong, centralized campaign. Just don’t pick a riding with a strong incumbent (and potential party leader) in the future.