Third Party voting in New Brunswick

The 2010 Election was the first for two parties in New Brunswick politics: The Green Party and the People’s Alliance. Their introduction onto the NB political scene represented more options for the New Brunswick voter to consider and opened up the political landscape to a more grassroots, a more under-the-radar approach, and more options away from the Big 2 Parties in the province: the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals and the PCs have dominated New Brunswick’s provincial political landscape. Both parties have won every election in New Brunswick’s history and have rarely, if ever, been challenged by a third party in most ridings. Third parties typically have difficulty even getting elected members into the Legislature – David Coon’s election in Fredericton South as a member of a third party in 2014 was the first election victory for a candidate not in the main two parties since Elizabeth Weir won Saint John Harbour for the NDP in 2003.

However, third party presence in provincial politics is about more than simply winning seats. Third parties can split votes in many different ways and lead to many unusual and different circumstances which would not normally occur with only two parties running candidates. Indeed, with more third parties running candidates, New Brunswick elections have become much closer and far more volatile.

With the introduction of the Greens and People’s Alliance, NB elections saw five official parties entering candidates, three of whom (PCs, Lib, NDP) running full slates of candidates while the Greens ran a near-full slate with PANB running a very abbreviated slate of 14 candidates in 55 ridings.

Although none of the third parties won seats in the 2010 Election their results provided a sort of warning shot across the bows of the Big 2 parties. The NDP amassed 10.41% of total votes, the Greens 4.56%, and the PANB a small 1.17%. Altogether, third parties in NB combined for 16.75% of the total provincial vote, or 62,267 total votes. These totals were the highest for third parties since 1991 when the confederation of Regions made a breakthrough winning eight seats after the splitting of the PCs following 1987’s election.

16.75% for third parties was an 11.5% increase over the 2006 election in which the NDP were the only third party option. In 2010 NDP leader Roger Duguay scored 32% in Tracadie-Sheila, good for 2nd place. The Greens scored eight 3rd-place finishes, mostly centered around Moncton and southest New Brunswick. PANB scored two 3rd-place finishes, with leader Kris Austin acheiving 20% of the vote in Grand Lake-Gagetown.

The 2014 election would continue the trend of increased third party votes. In this election the Greens increased their vote share to 6.61% (and won a seat), the NDP increased to 12.98%, and the PANB increased to 2.14% with a still abbreviated slate of candidates.

In total, 84,096 New Brunswickers voted for third parties in 2014 – an increase of just under twenty two thousand over 2010. This meant nearly 6% more voters chose third parties in 2014 compared to four years earlier. In 2014, 22.62% of voters choose parties that were not the PCs or the Liberals.

new-brunswick-share-of-votes-third-parties-1970-2014

share-of-vote-by-party-nb-1970-2014

 

 

Coon’s victory for the Greens is a testament to this increased presence of third parties in New Brunswick. He’s the first ever Green Party candidate elected in the province’s history. However, his win was due to his own votes as well as some very fortunate vote splits along the way.

Fredericton South split nearly four ways, with rounded percentages as follows:
GRN 30% [COON]
PC 26%
LIB 22%
NDP 20%
IND 2%

Can Coon repeat this in 2018? Perhaps. It will take a lot of ground work and Get-Out-The-Vote to ensure one of the other three parties in contention don’t leapfrog him. With a riding this close it is the absolute definition of a tossup.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy saw similar circumstances in his riding, although more of a three-way race than a four-way race. Cardy unfortunately did not benefit from the vote-split that Coon did, and it will be interesting to see if he chooses this riding again (see my previous article on this subject)

Fredericton West-Hanwell split three ways, with rounded percentages as follows:
PC 35%
NDP 30% [CARDY]
LIB 28%
GRN 7%

The closest third party race undoubtedly was in another Fredericton-area riding, this time the riding of PANB’s leader Kris Austin in Fredericton-Grand Lake. We’ll call this a three-and-a-half way race:

Fredericton-Grand Lake split three-and-a-half ways, with percentages as follows:
PC 28.79%
PANB 28.48% [AUSTIN]
LIB 27.91%
NDP 10.53%
GRN 4.29%

Austin came within 26 votes of winning his riding and being a bigger surprise winner than Coon. Austin’s win would have been the first time in 23 years that four parties had been represented in the Legislature with the most votes spread throughout those four parties provincially.

From 1999 to 2006 roughly 90%-95% of New Brunswickers voted for either the Progressive Conservatives or the Liberals. In 2010, with the introduction of the Greens and People’s Alliance, that number shrank to 83%. In 2014, with increased growth for the new parties and larger growth for the NDP, the percentage of voters voting for the PCs or Liberals shrank even further to 77%. In other words, the two big parties had 15% less voters to count on than just a decade earlier.

winning-candidate-vote-share-2003-2014

The introduction of third parties in this first-past-the-post voting system also leads to difference in outcomes. Prior to the introduction of the Greens and People’s Alliance a winning MLA averaged between 52% and 56% of the vote in their riding. With the two new parties that number has shrank to 48% in 2014. This means that to win a seat in the legislature the average vote of the winning candidate has decreased by 5% with more parties gaining more votes.

In 2014, the average winning candidate in Central New Brunswick (Fredericton-area ridings) needed only 37% of the votes on average to win their riding. This is due in part to three party leaders running in this region but also to the competitive nature of all five parties in this region as well.

In fact, Central New Brunswick (Fredericton and environs) is becoming increasingly tighter and tighter as we progress with more third parties:

central-nb-vote-share-2003-2014-elections

In Eastern New Brunswick (Kent-Moncton-Tantramar areas) a similar trend is forming:

eastern-nb-vote-share-2003-2014-elections

Will this trend continue for 2018? Possibly. The NDP did well in some regions of the province and will need a similar showing to continue that trend. The 12% of votes they received in 2014 is roughly 4% more than their current provincial polling, and even then that 12% total didn’t give them a seat in the Legislature. Focusing their efforts on a single area or region may glean less votes overall but a better chance at winning a riding.

The Greens, with Coon, will almost certainly focus on his re-election campaign in Fredericton South and may increase focus on adjoining ridings in the area. The Greens did well in Kent County due to the fracking debate and may not see similar numbers in the next election.

The People’s Alliance, as i’ve written on before, are likely poised for continued growth. With continued trending Austin should win his Fredericton-Grand Lake riding in 2018, unless there’s a big PC increase in vote share, and other candidates may see similar strong showings if their trending continues. Running more candidates in more rural Anglophone areas will only serve to increase their vote total. This is a party which has still not yet run a full-slate of candidates and averages somewhere around 4% or 5% in the ridings they do run in.

Whenever I bring up third parties in New Brunswick improving their vote totals I always have one or two people say something like: “Yeah but they’ll never run government“. You’re right, they won’t, but even if they’re not winning ridings they’re having an effect on the outcome, and when they are winning ridings they’re having an effect in the legislature and in committee. Just by existing and fielding candidates these third parties are applying pressure to the larger two parties to keep up. A decade or two ago it was very common to win a riding with over 50% of the total vote in a riding because there were only effectively two choices. In 2018 there will be five choices, and every single percentage point can be the difference between sitting at home and sitting in the legislature.

In 2014 the third parties combined for 23% of total votes and ended up with 2% of the seats in the legislature. In 2018 they can still combine for 23% of total votes and end up with 6% or 8% of total seats. It remains to be seen. There’s no denying the impact that third parties are having on campaign races, though, and it’s going to make for an interesting election in 2018 with the currently-governing Liberals only two or three ridings away from minority status.

 

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Languages Spoken at Home in New Brunswick

Language is the most controversial topic in New Brunswick. More than sports and their supporters, more than education or healthcare, and more than the Irvings. Language debates trump them all. As the only province in Canada where both languages are the official languages perhaps this isn’t all that surprising – it’s a tug-o-war where both are given podiums rather than a clear preference for one or the other. It’s an important facet of life, from dealing with government services to running a business to sending your children to school in First Grade.

Everyone has stories and everyone has anecdotal evidence one way or the other about the current (or past situations) of language in New Brunswick. Through all that anecdotal evidence there must be some hard statistics, right? Some concrete numbers to look at, to trend, to analyze. Surprisingly, hard statistics on the subject are difficult to come by. Many different categories are used, from knowledge of languages to usage of both languages to bilingualism rates – for this exercise I was looking for something more straightforward.

What i’ve found in the past is that when language statistics are reported they’re very rarely contrasted to past numbers. There’s very rarely a graph, or a table, or any sort of distinguishing pattern to work off of or to develop. Language statistics are more often than not presented as a current (at the time) figure. Something like “Bilingualism has increased 5% in the past five years” will be used with no qualitative or quantitative detail – 5% from what? Amongst whom? Where? So many questions.

The numbers i’ve used for this process are StatCan Census numbers reported as “Language Spoken at Home”. Each Census, StatCan will question residents on languages they speak at work, languages they can speak overall, and languages they prefer to use at home. Home languages are the easiest to base off of as a base population living in an area. Whatever language is more natural or your most comfortable is what you would use in your own personal space.

These numbers used in this are for single responses only, meaning households which reported speaking multiple languages at home were not included. These multiple responses are so infrequent (oftentimes less than 0.50% in any given area) that I saw fit not to include them in this exercise. These StatCan responses are compiled using a sample of 20% of respondents in any given area, so numbers are rounded. Some areas will exceed 100% in a given year whilst some may be under.

Again, i’ve utilized data sorted by County for New Brunswick. Counties are a consistent measure and their boundaries have not changed through any of these reporting periods. They provide for a reasonable sub-provincial level of analysis whilst being evenly split enough to provide for differences in trending.

Data is taken from the 1996 Census, 2006 Census, and 2011 Census. Data is unavailable for 2001 as the Language at Home question was not asked.

Anyway! On to the data:

The following map outlines the total number of English and French speakers by County in 2011. This map shows the heavily Anglophone-dominated South and Southwest and the Francophone dominated North and East. It’s important to note in this that Francophone majority counties do feature sizeable English populations (not including Madawaska) but the reverse is not true (not including Westmorland). Anglophone majority counties are heavily Anglophone with very small (relatively-speaking) Francophone minorities.

new-brunswick-language-spoken-at-home-total-2011

However, this map is static for 2011, so let’s look at the change in reporting numbers from 1996 to 2011.

nb-counties-language-change-19962011

Here the demographic picture begins to form. Francophone majority counties Madawaska, Restigouche, and Gloucester saw large decreases in both Francophone and Anglophone speakers. Anglophone majority counties like York and Kings saw big increases for Anglophones with minimal increases in Francophone numbers. Westmorland saw proportional growth for both linguistic groups.

Kent County is the outlier in this exercise. It is the only county where one language grew while the other declined. Between 1996 and 2011, Kent grew by 1,625 Anglophone respondents while Francophone respondents decreased by nearly 3,000. A change like this has a big impact on the proportion of people that speak each official language in each county.

nb-counties-languages-19962011

Immediately with this map we can see the impact. In 1996 Kent County’s split was 21% Anglophone and 74% Francophone. In 2011 that has shifted to 28% Anglophone and 68% French – A 7% increase for Anglophone and a 6% decrease in Francophone respondents. Most other changes in the province were minimal. The increase in Francophone proportion in areas like Victoria and Restigouche is interesting to note. Both major linguistic groups decreased in these areas but the rate in which Anglophone decreased was greater than the rate that French decreased, even if the Francophone numbers decreased by a higher total number. Northumberland saw a 2% swing towards Anglophones at the expense of Francophones in that county.

Cities

York, Westmorland, and Saint John counties are home to New Brunswick’s three largest urban centres (Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John respectively). In these areas, minimal movement is seen with the major languages. An Anglophone proportional decrease in York with a raw number increase; A raw number loss and proportion loss for both official languages in Saint John; and raw number growth for both languages in Westmorland with a slight proportional swing towards Francophone.

In these three major urban areas non-official languages are becoming more and more prominent.

fredericton-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011

moncton-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011

saint-john-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011

Non-Official Languages are considered any language that is not one of the two official languages. This includes aboriginal languages as well as foreign languages, primarily spoken by immigrants. In all three of these areas non-official languages (immigrants) has grown by leaps and bounds compared to past decades. The total number of non-official languages spoken at home has more than doubled in New Brunswick in the past fifteen years. In York it has more than doubled; in Westmorland it has more than tripled, and in Saint John it has more than quadrupled. With Syrain refugees set to impact futue Census data, these figures should only increase as each of these cities have taken on hundreds of newcomers.

In fact, Non-official languages increased in 12 of NB’s 15 counties. Only Kent County, home to New Brunswick’s largest First Nations Reserve (Elsipogtog) saw a substantial decrease in non-official language usage at home.

english-language-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011-table

french-language-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011-table

non-official-language-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011-table

Looking at Counties or large urban centres are ways of processing language data – but  we can always go deeper:

richibucto-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011

The town of Richibucto saw one of the larger swings for a municipality of significant size in New Brunswick. The usage of English as a home language increased from 27% in 1996 to 40% in 2011, with French decreasing from 72% to 57% in that same time span. Richibucto is one of many municipalities in the Moncton sphere of influence that saw similar trending, although to lesser degrees. Beaubassin-Est, Shediac (Town), Saint-Paul (Parish), and Dundas (Parish) all saw increases in English spoken at home. It is possible that Moncton’s suburban and rural growth is triggering an expansion of the English language in areas formerly dominated by Francophones.

As for Moncton, its numbers increased across the board as its population has increased. English increased by 6,500, French by 1,600, and Non-Official Languages by just shy of 1,000. Proportionally, English sits at 72%, French at 24%, and Non-Official at 2%. The following is for the Moncton CMA, areas immediately within Moncton’s sphere of influence, and areas heavily dependent on Moncton according to StatCan:

moncton-cma-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011

With these out of the way, we can take a quick look at Provincial numbers as a whole:

new-brunswick-language-spoken-at-home-1996-2011

new-brunswick-language-spoken-at-home-raw-2011

Conclusions

New Brunswick’s population in 2016 should continue to trend in a manner similar to how it trended between 2006 and 2011. There will likely be a non-official language bump consistent with current trending.

English spoken at home continues to increase where there is growth in New Brunswick. In NB’s three major cities, suburban growth is overwhelmingly Anglophone.

French spoken at home will likely continue to decline as Northern New Brunswick, consisting primarily of Restigouche and Gloucester counties, have shown no signs of rectifying their continued decrease in population. Part of this decrease is due to the relative age of residents in Northern New Brunswick compared to their Southern counterparts, but continued stagnation will affect this region’s population negatively. Estimates released by StatCan in the leadup to Census 2016 have shown no signs of these decreases slowing.

The continued growth of York, Kings, and Westmorland counties should contribute to an increasing proportion of New Brunswickers using English at home as a spoken language. With the continued decline of Gloucester, Restigouche, and Northumberland it is likely the proportion of French used as a spoken language at home will decrease. Non-Official languages should continue to trend positively in 2016, perhaps showing its strongest growth ever.

What we’re witnessing is a slowly growing span between the proportion of English and French in New Brunswick. With current trending that span looks to continue to grow with no reason to believe it won’t continue at a faster pace so long as Francophone counties continue to be of a higher median age with imminent decreases immediately thereafter.

The most interesting county to watch will be Kent County, at least from the numbers i’ve seen. Will it continue its shift towards English? The affect that Moncton’s boom in the Southeast is having on its environs can be seen in the increase of English as a spoken language on its border with Kent County. Parishes featuring Moncton commuters, Saint-Paul and Dundas among them, are becoming increasing Anglophone, while major centres within the county (Richibucto) are trending in that direction as well. Parity in Kent County may be closer to reality in 2016 than ever before in its history.

These statistics are important in attempting to find a trend in New Brunswick’s demographics. All language communities are vital to the nature of the province and the province would be lesser without them. The purpose of this exercise was to answer a couple of questions:

  • What affect is New Brunswick’s population increase having on Official Language usage and spread?
  • What affect is the growing number of immigrants having on local communities?
  • What affect is New Brunswick’s regional population decline having on Official Language usage and spread?

Part of this exercise was to build a framework to be in place for the release of the 2016 Census figures (due to begin releasing in February 2017). Once those numbers are released i’ll be able to plug them into these tables  and quickly find trends on provincial, regional, and local levels in New Brunswick relating to language use.

A Tale of Two Twinnings: Routes 7 & 11

New Brunswickers love their highways. New Brunswickers love talking about their highways. AND New Brunswickers love talking about what highways should be twinned next. It’s a common subject and one which can be brought up with any resident just about anywhere to get an opinion on the subject.

Because New Brunswick’s population is still made up of a significant rural population many residents are spread throughout the regions of the province. Although the province is not that large compared to an Ontario or a Quebec, a sizeable portion of its population lives outside of its major population centres, so having connecting highways that are both efficient and safe for travel are important to a large number of residents as well as businesses.

In total, New Brunswick has roughly 825KM of twinned, four-lane highway for a population hovering around 755,000.

A lot of discussion in the past has revolved around two Highways that likely should be twinned but haven’t been for whatever reason you’d like to believe. Some in Saint John will make the joke that there is no twinned highway to the Capital from Saint John for a good reason, and the lack thereof shows Fredericton’s contempt for the southern port city. Others, in Kent County, may point to political favouring and posturing as why Route 11 may not have been twinned in the past, or a dwindling population in rural parts of Northeastern New Brunswick. Others have been very pro-twinning, stating that it will bring economic impacts and tourists (more-so for Route 11) to areas currently underserved by them, whilst others go further and say twinning highways will pull tourists away from local towns (Charlotte County Route 1).

It’s a tricky and sometimes controversial subject.

ROUTE 11

Route 11 is, at this stage, the most likely to be twinned in New Brunswick as there is currently work being down to twin a short segment from Shediac Bridge to Shediac River. Initial, potential plans for Route 11 had it being twinned as far north as Miramichi, but as the following numbers indicate traffic does not warrant twinning that far north.

The following are AADT (Average Annual Daily Traffic) numbers for Route 11 from 2010, 2012, and 2014.

aadt-route-11-2010-2014

These numbers highlight increasing traffic between Shediac and Richibucto until it tails off further north before further tailing off the further one travels north. The Province of New Brunswick and Department of Transportation indicate that an AADT of roughly 8,000 is the amount required to investigate twinning of a segment of highway, and nearly all of Shediac to Richibucto will meet that in the near future with its current trending. The sections of Route 11 north of Richibucto barely meet half of that requirement currently.

aadt-route-11-2014

The current project underway is twinning a section of Route 11 from Shediac Bridge to Shediac River, a short section of the southern portion of Route 11. Traffic dictates this is (or will be soon) needed further north towards Bouctouche. Further twinning north to Richibucto seems to be destined as well, although this will depend on political expediency and safety concerns.

Those that desire full twinning of Route 11 seem to be grasping at straws at least as far as the AADT numbers indicate. The numbers do not pick up high enough again until Route 11 is well into Miramichi and crossing the Miramichi River, and are only high enough for that river crossing. Although full twinning would provide a higher degree of safety for motorists the traffic numbers are not there to warrant it, and the CBC lists Route 11 as having a lower collision rate than other two-lane highways in the province.

In fact, one report on Route 11 twinning from 2012 found that safety concerns were not warranted on Route 11 compared to other routes in the province.

ROUTE 7

Route 7 is the primary highway route connecting two of New Brunswick’s largest population centres: Saint John & Fredericton. For a stretch of highway less than 100km in length connecting two major NB Cities it would seem obvious that this would have been twinned and would have the traffic necessary for that twinning. However, Department of Transportation’s AADT numbers tell a different story:

aadt-route-7-2010-2014

These numbers highlight Route 7’s stagnating, and in some areas decreasing, traffic trends. If we remove sections of Route 7 that are shared with Route 2 from Oromocto and Fredericton we’re left with a particular trend: The average traffic on Route 7 between Oromocto and Saint John has been decreasing from an average AADT of 6,201 in 2010, to 6,077 in 2012, to 5,750 in 2014. The biggest loss of traffic are in Nerepis (-210), Welsford (-1,270), and Petersville (-540). The North section near Geary and the South section nea Grand Bay have seen increases over this time frame.

On the whole it seems likely that Route 11 is on the precipice of twinning whilst Route 7 is heading in the opposite direction, at least for its full length. The newly opened twinned section which bypasses Welsford (and replaced an awful winding section which traveled through the time) seems to have dwindling traffic, or at least its numbers have fallen as the new bypass has replaced the old. Time will tell if these numbers continue to trend.

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

On Electoral Reform

Yesterday the New Brunswick government announced potential reforms to the electoral system in the province. These changes are wide and deep, looking at potential changes to the voting age, changes to donation limits, and how New Brunswickers vote; either online or changing the entire electoral voting procedure as a whole.

Electoral reform has been a sticky subject in Canada as of late with the Federal Government proposing similar changes at the national level. The opposition Conservatives feel that a referendum is needed to provide enough public support to implement these changes. The argument, at least from the ruling Liberals, is that because they ran in the 2015 election on the promise of changing the electoral system, and subsequently gained a majority government, that this is support enough for the government to enact these changes.

The Federal Liberals have also had to jump through hoops regarding how the electoral reform committee is composed and also are facing difficulties regarding their timelines for implementing a full range of changes in time for the next federal election in 2019.

The New Brunswick proposal faces similar issues. No committee has been struck as of yet and this committee is supposed to be publishing a final report on these proposals in January 2017. For anyone who has had any experience working with government at any level should know this is an ambitious target and it seems doubtoful it will be met accordingly. Even if it is met it would still have to be put through the legislature and all of the due diligence that comes with that.

In the event the Liberals are able to pass the electoral reform legislation in the Spring of 2017 it leaves the government and Elections NB with roughly 12 months to implement changes in time for the next provincial election in the fall of 2018.

What’s more important than timelines of course is what these proposed changes are! So let’s take a look:

The Good:

Changing donation limits
The most important of these reforms is the possibility of reform or (hopefully) complete removal of corporate and union donations to political parties or independent candidates. Nova Scotia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and the Federal government have restricted and removed corporations and unions from donating and thus holding influence over candidates. It’s a smart move for a province as unique as New Brunswick with such large industry for such a small population. Removing these donations removes possible foul play and undemocratic practices that generally floats around with private and union forces affecting politics and really forces parties to look for donations from citizens – the people actually voting for them.

Allowing for permanent residents to vote
Permanent residents are people who live in the province much the same as anyone else. There have been calls recently for permanent residents to gain the vote in municipal campaigns which was not mentioned in this discussion paper. Still, it looks like progress.

Fixed election dates
This proposal is pretty straightforward and has already been implemented at the federal level. A fixed date for an election every four years provides for stability and reliability, particularly for organizations such as Elections NB which needs to make preparations for elections. This does not mean elections cannot be held more frequently than four years (no confidence votes, snap elections) but does mean that they’re set in stone and must be held within a four-year time frame.

The Unlikely:

Online/Internet voting
Internet voting poses a number of difficulties which were previously found in Quebec when the Chief Electoral Officer in 2005 found issues with online voting mechanisms. A lack of transparency, accountability, ability to verify voters, and costs are among many of the issues surrounding online voting or the creation of online voting kiosks. As of yet, none of the costs for this have been outlined, so it remains to be seen what the financial implications would be.

“The technical audits and tests helped to determine that electronic voting systems are exposed to many risks since they have limited or no formal protection and security measures, thus making them vulnerable to technological attacks. In addition, the systems are thus exposed to major service or network defects and breakdowns.” – Elections Quebec, 2006

I see no issue in making things easier for voters to cast their vote but I have seen nothing proposed by the government in terms of a serious plan on this to offer any reasonable yea or nay at this point. Perhaps the January Report will glean some light on this.

Anything > FPTP Voting
There’s no doubt that first-past-the-post is a wildly inefficient system of voting. It’s the simplest, and it works, and that’s about it. The major issue revolves around convincing an electorate that it would be wise to tinker with it, and so far four of those votes have been rejected in various provinces across the country in the past twenty years. As of yet there hasn’t been much support or momentum for a change in voting system in New Brunswick despite reports developed over a decade ago recommending them.

Is FPTP a flawed voting system? Sure. Is it the easiest to understand? Absolutely. Do I think New Brunswickers would support a change in the way they vote if it was put to a referendum? Not a chance.

The proposed alternatives are outlined very well in the discussion paper and it provides good graphics and explanations of how they work. I am supportive of the current one-member-per-riding system with a ranked ballot with the victor requiring 50% of the vote to be elected. Other alternatives, like party lists, get into the murky waters of party officials not tied by area or region ending up in the legislature and opens up the door to fiddling…and not the kind on the roof.

[I’m also supportive of the province further cutting down on the number of ridings in the province from the current 49 to a more reasonable 45 or 41, but that recommendation is nowhere to be found]

The Bad:

Lowering voting age
Although an admirable and understandable goal I don’t see much from a policy perspective to support this. The negatives, such as allowing those to vote who may not have a full understanding of what their vote is going towards, far outweigh the positives on this file. It would be wiser for the government to provide for more education on civics and allow interest to swell from that.

It’s clear that lowering the voter age is an attempt to increase voter turnout in elections but lowering it may very well have the opposite effect. Allowing a whole new segment of the electorate to vote is great but if they vote at levels below the average they’ll only serve to drag down turnout further. There’s nothing that I can find that shows that 16 and 17 year olds are kicking down the door to be heard….the discussion paper mentions that there will be fewer and fewer of them in the coming years. No growth in this demographic.

What government should be aware of is that turnout in elections, although important, isn’t the be-all, end-all measuring stick of how interested an electorate is in the political process. Turnouts rise and fall based on elections and can swing for many different reasons. Elections with higher turnouts generally have a specific issue or decisions revolving around them that leads to more people heading to the polls. An example of this would be the 2010 election which reversed a trend in NB of successive falling turnouts. Why did turnout rise in this election? It likely had to do with the incumbent Graham Liberals seeking to sell NB Power. Big ticket issues like this generally drive turnout up. NB either doesn’t have these issues come up during elections or political parties are too afraid to step on toes to bring them up in the first place.

The idea that government can create a more “effective” legislature by making it easier for underrepresented groups to become elected to the legislature is laughable at best. Having elected members from more diverse backgrounds doesn’t provide for a more effective legislature –  it simply provides for a more representative legislature (and that is always up for interpretation). The issues surrounding the legislature would still persist whether the entire legislature was made up of women or visible minorities or not. Many issues remain, like the lack of sitting days, overall lack of decorum, and many others.

There are many ingrained issues surrounding the legislature and political culture in New Brunswick as a whole. Creating reforms for electoral reform with the goal of fixing these issues points the finger at the electorate as the cause for these issues – this is simply untrue. New Brunswick’s voters haven’t driven the province to economic stagnation. New Brunswick’s voters haven’t restricted legislature sitting hours this session. These issues rest with the elected members of the legislature and the ministers and premier of the province. Surely efficiencies can be found within the political system rather than pointing the finger at voters.

New Brunswick voters do, and can, have the power to change who sits in the legislature after all.

It remains to be seen if all of these proposed changes will make it to the (presumably very rushed) final report in January but from what I can see I would be particularly surprised if all of them were implemented in time for 2018. Why is the government deciding now to push this issue? The Liberals did mention some parts of this in their 2014 Election Campaign [“Investigating means to improve participation in democracy, such as preferential ballots and online voting.”, pg. 37] but made no mention of changing the entire electoral process.

If that’s the goal why not tie a referendum vote onto the general election vote in 2018? It would be simple, a good election platform for them to build off, and would negate the negative press of a government trying to force reforms on an electorate that didn’t really ask for them. Perhaps they think they would lose such a vote.

A referendum tied to the general election in 2018 would almost certainly raise voter turnout – isn’t that what’s being sought for in the end?

New Brunswick’s Shifting Population

New Brunswick’s population has seen a relative, but modest, rise in the past 25 years compared to other provinces in Canada. New Brunswick has continually ranked 8th (out of 10, rising to 13 provinces and territories) in total population for over 100 years between 1911 and 2011.

Between 1991 and 2011 NB’s population has increased from 723,900 to 751,171. PEI has seen a fairly steady annual rise in its population, climbing from 129,765 to 140,204 in that same time period. Nova Scotia has climbed from 899,942 to 921,727.These numbers easily pale in comparison to larger provinces in the country which routinely bring in thousands of new citizens each year (which is another issue altogether revolving around immigration).

Most important amongst these numbers is the urban/rural division of population. It’s became a large trend in the 20th century and is only now beginning to pick up steam in Atlantic Canada…the biggest reason for this would be the economies of which Atlantic Canada was based upon: Agriculture, Fishing, Forestry. These are all very rural economies in comparison to, for example, manufacturing.

Urban/rural division is important because it can significantly alter how a province delivers its services and how it runs on a day to day basis. Nova Scotia has one very large urban centre which accounts for nearly half of its provincial population (Halifax) and as such most of Nova Scotia’s major institutions, schools, and services are found in this centre. New Brunswick, on the other hand, has three smaller urban centres which do not reach half of the province’s population (although they’re getting closer) which leads to services, institutions, and schools being spread throughout. It’s a bit more expensive and cumbersome when a province is trying to grow when everything is spread out.

The Canadian national average in 2011 was 81% Urban and 19% Rural. NB sat at 53/48, with only PEI having a lower % of urban population. The biggest difference between Canada’s largest provinces and its smallest? Canada’s largest provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, BC) all have Urban percentages north of 80%. In fact, ONT and QC haven’t been at NB’s 53/47 split since 1921 and 1911 respectively. To put it one way, NB is a century behind the urban/rural development split of Ontario.

2011 URBAN%/RURAL%

NL 59/41
PEI 47/53
NS 57/43
NB 53/48
QC 81/19
ONT 86/14
MB 72/28
SSK 67/33
AB 83/17
BC 86/14

NB’s rural population hit a high of 378,686 in 1991 and has been falling ever since [1991 is a convenient year as it’s the earliest Census data that I have access to]. Between the five-year census periods NB’s rural population has fallen anywhere between 16K and 1K in each period. The Urban population, on the other hand, has risen from anywhere between 15K and 6.5K. During the period of 1991-2011 NB’s Urban % has gone from 48% to 53%, with rural of course going in the opposite direction.

For definition’s sake, StatCan refers to population centres of under 1,000 or with less than 400 persons per sq. km as “rural”.

But we can get deeper than just province-wide numbers. Where is that rural population depleting? Where is that urban population increasing? What are the pros and cons to this shift?

RURAL LOSSES

What i’ve done with the data is fairly simple. I’ve gone into each City, Town, Village, and Parish in NB and tracked their population through each census between 1991 and 2011. Using that, i’ve grouped the province into 55 units focused around a town or population centre. In 2011, the smallest centre in population would be “Canterbury”, which consists of the area roughly of Canterbury Parish, Canterbury Village, Meductic Village, and North Lake Parish. The largest population centre is Moncton, consisting of the City and the Parish of Moncton.

The subregion with the biggest % drop in population between 1991 and 2011 is “Gloucester Nord”, consisting of New Bandon, Saint-Leolin, Maisonette, Grande Anse, and Bertrand. Collectively they’ve gone from a population of 5,566 in 1991 to 4,131 in 2011. This area loses roughly 500 people each five years. As Bertrand and New Bandon were both over 1,000 people in 2011 it is entirely possible for both of them to drop from “Urban” to “Rural” for 2016, further exacerbating rural drop (at least in the eyes of StatCan).

The runner-up subregion for population lost between 1991-2011 is “Sainte-Anne – Saint-Leonard” in Northwest NB. Declining -20.90% in those twenty years, or roughly 1% per year. The biggest fallers in this subregion are Ste-Anne-de-Madawaska, Saint-Andre, Riviere-Verte, and Notre-Dames-des-Lourdes

Other subregions with significant population drops from 1991-2011 include Balmoral (-18.74%), Campbellton-Dalhousie (-17.97%), Rogersville (-15.39%), and Shippagan (-15.11%). See a trend in any of these?

URBAN GAINS

On the flipside, some areas have grown by leaps and bounds. Dieppe, in another universe to all others, increased by 118.87% between 1991 and 2011 (10,650 to 23,310). Harvey-Kingsclear by 33.38% in this time period. Kennebecasis (Quispamsis/Rothesay) by 22.40%. Moncton by 20.59%. See a trend in any of these?

Saint John was the only of the Big 3 Cities to show a decline during this period. Saint John’s decline is supplemented by an increase in its surrounding suburban areas, particularly in Quispamsis.

Most important in these numbers is the strong growth in the suburbs of the Big 3. Dieppe’s growth is (partly) due to its proximity to Moncton. The growth in the Kennebecasis Valley can be attributed to its proximity to Saint John. The growth in Kingsclear to Fredericton. We can look at these numbers and come to the conclusion that the City of Saint John is losing population but that statement would neglect the growth that’s occurring just outside of its border. Although these suburbs are not “urban” it is much easier to service them than someone living in a much more rural, distant area.

(The Finn Report (2008) actually touched on suburban citizens leeching off of urban services in the cities; which would in turn raise taxes and fees on those living in the cities. It’s a fascinating read.)

NORTH/SOUTH DIVIDE

All of the largest fallers were located in Northern New Brunswick. All of the largest climbers were located in Southern New Brunswick. It’s no secret that the North is losing population and the South is gaining population. Are the two related? Perhaps.

Northern decline can be linked to the relative age of its population and the lack of a substantial, dependent, widespread economy and industry. Northern New Brunswick is older and more rural than their counterparts in the south. Restigouche has a median age of 48.7, with over 20% of its residents over 65. Gloucester county has similar numbers.

To put this plainly: The rural areas of the province that are declining are also its oldest, meaning that this decline is only going to continue at a faster rate as the baby boomers enter retirement. How quickly this decline will quicken remains to be seen, but without any sort of youth injection in these areas it seems unlikely they’ll ever recover from their current trajectories.

URBAN/RURAL SERVICING

Jean-Guy Finn makes a quick note about cost-servicing as age increases:

“Shifts in population will also impact the nature of services delivered. As populations in some communities age, service requirements will also change. For example, recreation programs and facilities may need to be adjusted, transit systems may have to be improved or made more accessible, and land use plans may have to be adjusted to better reflect evolving housing needs.”

Although Finn’s Report highlights the need to coordinate local governments better to be more effective for the taxpayers within them it also highlights a changing environment in New Brunswick. That environment is that suburban and urban centres are growing whilst rural centres, and unincorporated areas, are declining.

The following is a list of all 55 subregions i’ve created for the purpose of this examination:

NB SUBREGION POPULATIONS

The common trend is gains made by the Big 3 Cities and their suburban units with big falls to more rural urban centres or northern centres. Not a single subregion that could be classified as “Northern” grew in population for the period 1991 to 2011. In fact, many of them dropped a fifth or sixth of their 1991 population. These trends will continue due to the relative average age of these areas, either through relocation or, more glumly, attrition.

On the other hand, the Big 3 and their suburban units fared very well and shared almost all of the population growth for this period of twenty years. In Oromcto, despite the Town of Oromocto declining in population, both Lincoln parish and Burton parish increased at a faster rate than Oromocto declined.

In Westmorland you can almost see the ripple effect that Moncton is having on that county. Moncton’s 20% growth became 118.87% in Dieppe, which becomes 21.88% in Shediac, which becomes 6.82% in Westmorland East. By the time we reach Sackville, the growth tapers off to 0.58%. The same is true in the Western direction as well, with growth being seen in Petitcodiac/Salisbury. These can almost be attributed to distance to the major urban centre, with high growth seen within a sort-of half hour circle of the city. By the time we reach Sackville, Hillsborough, or Bouctouche that growth tapers off due to relative distance from the City.

Another area that is worth investigation is the shared areas between the Big 3 cities. Are they growing? The answer is yes (and no). The corridor between Moncton and Saint John, which i’ll refer to as the Kings County Corridor (KCC) has been growing steadily for the past twenty years. Kennebecasis saw 22.40% growth, Central Kings 8.42% growth, Sussex 2.11% growth. Petitcodiac/Salisbury 7.04% growth. This distance phenomenon occurs again: Growth dissipates as you exit Saint John and bottoms out roughly 45 minutes away in Sussex before increasing again as you near Moncton. Sussex is almost exactly halfway between the two and that subregion has the lowest growth of the KCC. It’s no coincidence.

The corridor between Saint John and Fredericton is a bit different as the majority of it is a very large military base, Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. There isn’t much room for development here. The corridor between Moncton and Fredericton is a bit different, however. The area of Grand Lake, consisting of  Cambridge-Narrows and Coles Island on the Trans-Canada Highway has still seen steady decline despite being between the two. The major decline in Grand Lake is due to the decline of Chipman and Minto, which are separated from the Big 3 and on no real route to anywhere of major urban importance. If our distance theory is correct this is due to the fact that these areas are in excess of 30/45 minutes from the major centres. Oromocto, which lies on the route to both Moncton and Saint John from Fredericton, has seen steady growth.

What we can discern from these numbers is that the Big 3, the large urban, suburban, and exurban areas are driving all of the growth in New Brunswick and will continue to do so. It’s areas like Minto, Chipman, McAdam, Campbellton, and Shippagan which no longer have relatively strong local economies and are not convenient to major urban centres that are going to continue their decline. Centres like Miramichi, Bathurst, Edmundston, and Grand Falls-Grand Sault are simply too separated from larger, growth-driven areas to benefit from any of that periphery growth themselves.

The 2016 Census is going to be a continuation of this trend and it’s going to be great for some areas and very poor for others. If the Provincial government were wise it would be looking at these numbers with both hope and concern and would be altering the service models in order to accommodate these changes.

On Celtic Affairs

Earlier this week the Gallant Government announced a shuffling of its provincial cabinet positions. The most notable, or perhaps most notorious of these changes, was the creation of a Minister Responsible for Celtic Affairs. The creation of this portfolio can be construed a number of ways, but i’m of the opinion that this is merely politics on behalf of the government to appease Anglophone voters who have been feeling hard-done-by this government’s policies. It can perhaps be assumed that the government has been leaning more towards Francophones in some of their decisions since coming into government, so the creation of this portfolio is to appeal to the other linguistic group.

Celtic Affairs is, at least in appearance, a position which is purely political posturing and an office that nobody requested in a time when the Government should be focusing on more pertinent matters. Job creation? Education? Healthcare? Celtic Affairs. That’s the sweet spot.

Was anyone asking for a Celtic Affairs portfolio? Any individuals? Non-Profits? Non-Governmental Organizations? I find it doubtful. So why create it in the first place?

Along with this, the size of Cabinet has increased by two, up to 14 Ministers plus the Premier for 15 members of Cabinet. This goes against various pledges the government has made in the past of reeling in the size of government, or committing to a smaller cabinet. As a comparison, when the Alward PC Government was defeated in 2014 it had a Cabinet of 18 Members for a Legislature of 55 Members. Currently this government is sitting at 15 Cabinet for a Legislature of 49 Members. Effectively, the Liberal cabinet consists of 31% of total Legislature members compared to the 33% the PCs enjoyed. The Liberals, at this stage, have only decreased the size of Cabinet relative to the size of the Legislature by 2%. Smaller Government.

In my opinion smaller government should actually be smaller. Currently the 15 Cabinet Members in New Brunswick share 37 separate titles. Some of these, like Deputy Premier and House Leader, are of course creations of political conventions handed down through Centuries of Government in New Brunswick. Other positions, like Celtic Affairs and Literacy, are purely creations to improve government exposure in certain areas. So, is it possible to merge these portfolios to make Cabinet smaller and more efficient? Absolutely:

EDUCATION: Education & New Economy Fund; Innovation; Post-Secondary Education; Education and Early Childhood Development; Literacy

INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS: Rural Affairs; Intergovernmental Affairs; Regional Development Corporation; Local Government; Service New Brunswick; Northern & Miramichi funds

SOCIAL & HERITAGE: Women’s Equality; Aboriginal Affairs; La Francophonie; Celtic Affairs; Official Languages; Poverty Reduction and the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation; Liasion for Military Affairs; Tourism, Heritage, and Culture

JUSTICE: Justice & Public Safety

INDUSTRY: Training & Labour; Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fisheries; Trade Policy; Economic Development; Opportunities NB

ENVIRONMENT: Environment; Energy & Resource Development

HEALTH: Health; Families & Children; Seniors & Long-Term Care

TRANSPORT: Transportation & Infrastructure

FINANCE: Finance; Treasury Board

This is a proposed Nine-Member Cabinet (without Premier), meaning that you could have a Ten- Member Cabinet with the preceding layout. If the Government feels that these broader portfolios would need more support they could create Ministers of state (Or Province?) to help with larger portfolios such as Industry or Education, but on the whole in a province with 3/4s of a Million people this shouldn’t be too time-consuming or difficult. Finance is straightforward. Health is straightforward. Justice is straightforward. Intergovernmental affairs should be straightforward.

Social and Heritage (and “Culture”) portfolios in New Brunswick are the most bloated and, in my opinion, the easiest to merge. Because of New Brunswick’s seemingly persistent “cultural” divisions, which I won’t get into with this post, many of these posts seem to be required, but there is a lot of overlap in what many of them are responsible for. Is there overlap between Official Languages and La Francophonie & Celtic Affairs? Is there Overlap between official Languages and “Heritage and Culture”? I would imagine it would be easier to have all of these aspects under the same portfolio rather than splitting them between three or four Ministers as is currently the case.

There are clear overlaps or redundancies to be found in Intergovernmental affairs. Rural Affairs, Regional Development, and Northern Funds can be merged. Surely they can be accommodated under one title. What’s the difference between Local Government and Intergovernmental Affairs? If Intergovernmental Affairs leans more towards Federal Issues can this not just be put under the auspice of Justice? Or Industry?

In the end 15 Ministers and 37 Titles is a bit too many for a province of 750K. That’s a Ministerial position for every 20K residents.