Commentary – Is the NDP on the rise?

The following is a commentary published in the Daily Gleaner on August 14, 2014

DAVID WIEZEL COMMENTARY

Recently, several New Brunswick media outlets have reported on the new business-like NDP. A Daily Gleaner editorial lauded NDP Leader Dominic Cardy’s “common sense approach” while other media noted his clear and practical stands on issues of concern to New Brunswickers.

Could something be happening here?

In the Fredericton area, the NDP unveiled a talented candidate group, including Cardy (Fredericton West-Hanwell), who should garner support for his principled-yet-practical, intelligent approach; Brian Duplessis, former United Way executive director, in Fredericton North; and former provincial cabinet minister Kelly Lamrock in Fredericton South.

Add the solid experience of New Maryland-Sunbury candidate Aimee Foreman (business manager and owner with solid credentials at non-profit groups); Sharon Scott-Levesque in Fredericton York (nurse and former small business owner); and Amanda Diggins in Oromocto Lincoln (early childhood educator at the Gagetown Military Family Resource Centre), and even without ridings yet to choose a candidate, the NDP match up quality-wise with the offerings of the local Progressive Conservatives and Liberals.

So, can the NDP win here? Dominic Cardy is widely respected and his presence in the legislature would benefit many New Brunswickers. Voters in Fredericton West-Hanwell could do the province a big favour by adding Cardy’s sensible voice to the legislature.

His candidates benefit by the Tories’ low standings in the polls (lower than Richard Hatfield’s percentage in the Liberal sweep of 1987), the anger of retired civil servants towards the PCs for breaking their earned pension deal and the Liberals for refusing clear and outright support to pensioners and the perception that the old parties are not capable of solving our problems.

In my riding of New Maryland-Sunbury, the Liberals and Tories picked candidates with an “on-paper” upside and practical downside. Retired General Michael Pearson, Liberal candidate, may have skills to command, but politics requires compromise and patience – which may not be common “general” traits.

PC backroom guy and candidate Jeff Carr is brother No. 3 in the political powerhouse Carr family, but Jeff played a significant role in the information leak scandal that plagued his boss and MLA brother, Jody last year.

NDP candidate Foreman’s background with non-profit groups like the Fredericton Community Kitchen, and management roles and ownership of her own business show a diverse wealth of business and community experience that enables her, I believe, to better see the big picture than the narrow – yet deep – experience of her two main competitors. Will it be enough to overcome the big political machines?

Well, remember 1991 provincial election when the Confederation of Regions Party ran well under the radar yet won six seats in central New Brunswick? I’m not saying the NDP is similar in policy to COR. However, people in the Fredericton region have a history of quietly replacing government MLAs when they are unhappy – and it certainly seems they are unhappy with many of our local PC MLAs.

Add to this the 2011 federal election results in the Province of Quebec when the NDP won 58 seats. Previously they held one. Who saw that coming? Could it happen here?

I side with the wisdom shown recently by The Daily Gleaner editorial writer – I’m not going to bet the farm on the NDP but hope some of their candidates win.

Really, we can’t do any worse than the Tories who seem to take strategy advice from Inspector Clouseau, and an indecisive Liberal Opposition where policy seems to begin with “on the one hand.”

Mr. Cardy, you’ve got my vote. 75,000 more and we’ve got a horse race.

David Wiezel 
is a former New Maryland mayor and has been involved in elections since the 1960s. He is about to cast his first vote for the NDP in New Brunswick.