On August 17th, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick announced a snap election for the Legislative Assembly to be held on September 14th. His party, the Progressive Conservatives, currently leads a minority government in the province. Recent polling there shows Higgs’s party with a commanding double-digit lead over the next closest party, the Liberals.
A Difficult Forecast
Forecasting this election will be difficult. Unlike in the United States, there have been no significant elections in Canada during the pandemic. There is a postal vote (absentee ballot) option in Canada, but it may not play a major role in this election. Furthermore, there are four major parties in New Brunswick:
- The Progressive Conservatives (PCs), an affiliate of the national Conservative Party.
- The Liberals, an affiliate of the national Liberal Party.
- The People’s Alliance, a right-wing party that is local to the province.
- The Green Party, which has shown strength in Atlantic Canada.
The Francophone Factor
The fractured nature of Brunswicker politics right now is not the only complication. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. The francophone vote is concentrated around Moncton in the east and along the Quebec border in the north.
Given the Liberal performance in francophone regions in 2018, it’s safe to assume they will dominate this region next month. Because of their position of bilingualism, the People’s Alliance and PCs typically lose Francophone voters. This means the Liberals can build up large margins with Francaphones, win the popular vote, but lose the election, as happened in 2018.
Anglophone New Brunswick
The real competition will be in the anglophone regions, where Fredericton and Saint John are the major cities. Four-way races won’t be uncommon, with three-way races and spoiler effects being prevalent throughout. Premier Blaine Higgs and Green Party leader David Coon should be safe bets to be re-elected in September.
The leader of the Liberals, Kevin Vickers, currently sits outside of the Legislative Assembly. He is running in Miramichi, however, a seat currently held by the People’s Alliance. This seat is traditionally Liberal, but they lost it by ten points in 2018. However, a recent poll has the People’s Alliance on the brink of extinction from the legislature, which leaves not only their showing in Miramichi in doubt, but also their representation in the next Legislature.
A win for the PCs will involve holding their current seats and picking off marginals from the People’s Alliance and the Liberals. The Liberal path to victory means winning Miramichi and winning seats they lost to the PCs and the Greens. As of right now, it seems unlikely the Greens will be able to win, and the People’s Alliance look to be shut out of the Legislative Assembly. Ultimately, the results will be determined when the election is held on September 14th.