Tag Archives: Election 2015

New Brunswick’s surging orange crush


For a while here, on the East Coast, it seemed that the federal Liberals could do no wrong. They had a majority approval rating of nearly 50 per cent in the run-up to the national election. They had a youthful, passionate and sometimes articulate leader in the body of Justin Trudeau.

But at some point between the time the writ dropped and the last summer barbecue ended, a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box: Atlantic Canadians lost faith in the ability of a red tide to subsume the prevailing blue wave. Now, some are talking about an orange crush, Quebec-style.

This turn of events frankly amazes Don Mills of Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates, whose company conducted the latest survey of public opinion. “It’s all very close now within the margin of error for (the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP),” he told the Brunswick News organization last week. “New Brunswick is starting to look a lot like Canada. It’s going to make it a lot more competitive than, perhaps, it has been in the past.”

According to his most recent results, “Support for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) has increased once again this quarter. . .Four in ten decided and leaning voters in Atlantic Canada support the Liberal Party of Canada (40 per cent, compared with 43 per cent of decided voters three months ago), while one-third prefer the NDP (33 per cent, compared with 29 per cent decided voters).

“Meanwhile, backing for the Conservative Party of Canada is consistent with last quarter (22 per cent, compared with 24 per cent of decided voters), while four per cent of decided and leaning Atlantic Canadians prefer the Green Party of Canada (unchanged). One-quarter (25 per cent, down from 41 per cent) of residents in the region are undecided, refuse to state a preference, or do not plan to vote.”

What’s more, Corporate Research’s results show that “Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper’s popularity currently stands at 17 per cent (compared with 19 per cent in May 2015). Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party is preferred by three in ten Atlantic Canadians (29 per, down from 36 per cent), while preference for Thomas Mulcair of the NDP increased to one-quarter (27 per cent, up from 22 per cent), and Elizabeth May of the Green Party is preferred by seven percent (up from 5 per cent).”

As for New Brunswick, specifically, the numbers shake out this way: Twenty-seven per cent of those surveyed are “completely dissatisfied” with the Harper government; another 30 per cent are “mostly dissatisfied”; only 31 per cent are either completely or mostly satisfied. That’s a ratio of nearly two to one against returning the incumbents to office.

As for leadership preferences, the results are even more compelling. On the question, “Which one of the following party leaders would you most prefer as Prime Minister of Canada?”, New Brunswickers answered thusly: Thomas Mulcair of the NDippers, 27 per cent; Mr. Trudeau of the Grits, 22 per cent; Mr. Harper of the Tories, 21 per cent.

Of course, there’s much turf yet to be covered in this horse race. Still, as Mr. Mills’ research indicates, “A majority of Atlantic Canadians continue to be dissatisfied with the current federal government. Two-thirds of residents (66 per cent, as compared to 63 per cent in May 2015) are dissatisfied in this regard”

All of which may not suggest an actual, Quebec-style orange crush for the NDP in New Brunswick next month.

But the chances of a blue day for the Conservative Party are certainly improving.

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Life’s certainty: debt and disappointment


For more proof that the federal government lives in a black box, coated with bubble wrap and buried in the deepest antechamber of Parliament Hill, look no farther than the hosannas it raises over the Finance Department’s latest projection that the country has posted a razor-thin surplus of less than $2 billion.

Apparently, this announcement is designed to cheer a worried populace, convince the nation that the Harper plan for “careful economic stewardship” is working and that, thanks to cunning and perspicacious policy at the centre, the regions may expect bread, honey and wine in the years ahead, if only they would get with the political program.

How, one wonders, does this logic track in Alberta, where provincial finances have been decimated in recent months thanks to a federally supported campaign to link that province’s economic prospects to fossil fuel prices it does not, and never has, controlled? How, indeed, does that constitute “careful stewardship”?

How, furthermore, does the argument persuade the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and Ontario that their astonishing fiscal woes can be ameliorated by the actions (or, more precisely, inactions) of a federal partner in Confederation that has been absent without leave for, lo, these many, nine years?

How, indeed, do we reconcile such claims with the very real possibility that New Brunswick will find itself unable to cap its impressive operating deficit (now in the hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars), let alone pay down its long term debt (now above $12 billion)?

If we lay these burdens at the feet of the federal government, we have good reason.

That so-called national “surplus” has been bought and paid for by the provinces and territories that have been forced to endure broad caps to public spending on traditional, nation-building priorities, including: health care, public education, university research and development, arts and culture, and workforce skills development and placement.

To be sure, this does not, and should not, let New Brunswickers off the hook for their own prettily arranged economic malaise.

Over the years, we have been more than willing to demand of our provincial governments everything we’ve always believed we had a right to expect: low taxes, high-quality public services, good jobs, seasonal employment combined with fully funded, no-questions-asked employment insurance.

Still, lurking beneath the surface has been a federal administration that has evinced very little interest in the conditions of the places where people actually live and work and raise families – and even less interest in building long-term economic capacity where it matters most.

In contrast, an enlightened national government would spend time getting to know the provinces with which it is obliged to partner. It would reach out to extend the enormous capital and human resources at its disposal to build a true and durable national consensus on social and economic priorities.

It would not shut down debate in Parliament, relegate important committee work to busy work, demean the democratic process by burying every important issue into an omnibus bill, and demonize every principled, conscientious objector of its priorities and plans as effective enemies of the state.

It would not refuse to extend humanitarian relief to those who are, heartbreakingly, unable, through no fault of their own, find succor and solace elsewhere in the world.

We, in Canada, do not live in a black box, coated with bubble wrap and buried under Parliament Hill.

We, in New Brunswick, and in every other province and territory of this once-noble country, live in the light with our hearts nobly bleeding, our hands generously outstretched.

So should our federal government.

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See how they run


It’s early days yet, and anything can happen. Still, political junkies across Canada are noticing a trend within the electorate they haven’t witnessed in years, maybe even decades: Citizens actually intend to vote this time around at the ballot box.

That’s good news, if only because it suggests that those who are ultimately responsible for the condition of their democracy – John and Jane Q. Public – are taking their pickings (meager as they might be) seriously.

If we obsessive-compulsives are correct (and, dear reader, there’s no guarantee that we are – remember what actual pollsters had to say about recent provincial elections in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, in which they got their forecasts so wrong even American late-night comedy shows took a break from lampooning the absurdities of U.S. politics to highlight those of ours), then this could be the biggest election turnout since the early 1960s, when upwards of 80 per cent of eligible adults cast tickets.

As a matter of more than mere interest, the lowest voter turnout on record in this country was in 2008, in the depths of the Great Recession, when barely 59 per cent of the eligible population deigned to visit their polling stations. Oddly, though, those most committed to the democratic plebiscite at that time were those who ultimately had the least to gain: New Brunswickers, of whom a higher percentage than the national average showed up to vote.

As things track now, this province appears ready to repeat that performance a little more than a month from now, though the result would be anything but conclusive.

According to a CBC analysis, “It appears the federal horse race may have reverted to its three-headedness again, as two new polls suggest a narrowing of the gap separating the three parties. But one of the surveys provides some insight into what and who is capturing voters’ attentions, and what effect it might be having. The CBC Poll Tracker still has the NDP in the lead with 33.5 per cent support, followed by the Conservatives at 29.1 per cent and the Liberals at 27.3 per cent. The Greens are averaging 5.5 per cent support, while the Bloc Québécois stands at 15.3 per cent support in Quebec.”

Added the public broadcaster: “This is a bit of a reversion to where things stood before the publication of two polls that suggested strong numbers for the New Democrats. These surveys by Forum Research and the Angus Reid Institute, both out of the field a week ago, put the NDP at 40 and 37 per cent support, respectively, among eligible voters. It boosted the party in the average, but the four polls that have been published since have put the NDP between 31 and 34 per cent support. That is where the party was polling prior to the release of these two bullish surveys.”

However New Brunswick “votes” and whatever the national impact this may produce, the province can at least pat itself on the back for its determinedly engaged citizenry.

As Elections Canada points on its web site, “The issue of voter turnout is taking on greater importance in public discussion in Canada and elsewhere. Observers increasingly link declining participation in elections to some of the more fundamental problems of modern democracy.

Indeed, notes the organization, “If the social and political forces that are driving turnout down are of a longer-term nature, the problem of low voter participation could continue to plague the political system for years to come.”

That, at least, does not appear to be one of New Brunswick’s myriad problems. For once.

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