Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ridings revisited

After having driven around New Brunswick, talked to people, looked at signs and felt the mood of some folks, it is time to revise a number of my predictions.

Not so safe after all?

Kings East - currently listed as a strong Liberal hold, every one else seems to think otherwise. I still think that the Liberals will hold this seat but I am going to move it from "safe Liberal" to "leans Liberal" and take a more extensive look later on in the campaign.

Hampton-Kings - another riding which I have listed as a strong hold that I am no longer so certain about. Bev Harrison won in a slightly different riding by a relatively small margin in 2003 and was facing a weak Liberal candidate who did not even put up any signage. This time the Liberals have a better candidate and the riding has gained from territory which was neglected under Brenda Fowlie in the old Kennebecasis district. This moves from "safe PC" to "leans PC" pending further analysis.

I can see clearer now

Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou - though this riding has a history of changing hands, the Liberals are running the same candidate as in 2003, a candidate that Robichaud beat at that time by a huge margin so, barring something unusual, I am going to call this a safe PC hold.

Tracadie-Sheila - though the Liberals had a chance here, they have nominated UdeM law professor Serge Rousselle who ran here in 1999 and also ran federally in 2004. Rousselle is a talented professor who could probably be a good candidate for them in a Moncton/Dieppe riding but seems to be a bit out of touch with the folks here in his home. I am going to call this leans PC.

Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe - all signs seem to point to this being a Liberal pick up. I will call it leans Liberal for now.

Grand Lake-Gagetown - an analysis of polls leaving the old Grand Lake riding and polls coming in from Oromocto-Gagetown shows a net PC gain of 540 votes. McGinley won in 2003 by 2318, so if we re-run that campaign, he still would have won by 1778 votes which is a pretty comfortable margin. That said, anger over the Minto hospital closure has probably died down a bit so it will be a narrower margin but still safe enough to call this, at least, leans Liberal.

Change of heart

Restigouche-La-Vallée - under the merger of Madawaska-la-Vallée and Restigouche West, Percy Mockler lost some very solid polls in St. Basile while Burt Paulin lost only territory where he ran roughly even with the Tories. If you run the results of the last election over again, Paulin would win by about 200 votes. Add into the mix the fact that St-Quentin, ordinarily the most Conservative part of Paulin's old riding, will be likely to vote against the government due to their hospital being closed in 2004. As a result I am prepared to move this from a weak Tory hold/gain to a weak Liberal hold/gain.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bernard Lord, man of the people?

So I heard Lord on the radio on Saint John's K100.

It is the party's ad, laying out the Tory plan. It was quite long running 45 seconds or maybe a minute.

A couple of comments. Lord doesn't introduce himself. His name isn't mentioned until the very end of the ad when an announcer says "On September 18, vote for Bernard Lord and the PC Team. "

I think this is a mistake as other than political nerds like me, I don't think too many people would recognize Lord's voice.

The other note is that it is clear that the scriptwriter is trying to make Lord sound like a man of the people. Throughout the add Lord uses "in'" instead of "ing".

He kept talking about his government "makin'" things happen. Very out of character for Lord and you could tell. He was stressing the words making it clear that he was forcing himself to say it.

It sounded fake, unprofessional and runs against the Tory strategy of painting Lord as a mature leader. Shawn Graham has got the "man of the people" image down pat and it is probably smart politics for the Tories to make a contrast between Lord and Graham but it is not possible for them to have it both ways.

Bad ad.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Times & Transcript poll

Not sure how many of you have seen the big poll in the T&T today. It is an interesting concept. They have picked 600 voters which they will survey three times over the campaign. The concept is that they will be able to see how individual voters move which I would think would have a huge effect on the margin of error with an already barely big enough sample.

Also, their pollster is Bristol, the Tory ad firm, and the same pollster the T&T used in 2003 which showed the Tories up 11 points when CRA and the actuall election result had them within one point.

That said, I was surprised to see the results were right about where I think they are:

PC 26, Lib 26, NDP 5, Undecided 32

Without the undecided it was:

PC 46, Lib 45, NDP 8

Strangley, they say when asked the undecideds were breaking 56-39 in favour of the incumbent Tories. This is quite a typical of how undecides split and, when you think about this race, it is even stranger. It would think that most voters have made their mind up on Lord and the Tories and, if they were undecided, it would most often be because they didn't like Lord but weren't sure about the alternative. Most of these people, I would imagine, would, having already decided they don't want Lord, end up with an opposition party at the end of the day.

What gets interesting is the regional results. The province is broken down into 5 regions, which means we are talking about sample sizes of 120 so huge margins of error. This is pretty clear when you read the results:

"Regionally the two main parties are deadlocked at 46 per cent in the Moncton area and 44 per cent in the Edmundston to Woodstock region.

Meanwhile Tories are dominating in Saint John leading the Liberals 49 per cent to 39 per cent. The Grits, however, have eked out a 49 per cent to 43 per cent lead in the Miramichi-Chaleur region and hold a 49 to 44 per cent advantage in Fredericton."

Talking to people in the streets it is clear the Saint John is probably the strongest anti-Lord part of the province yet he enjoys his best lead there according to this poll. In the meantime, Lord's best region is Moncton yet according to this there is a tie in that area.

If Graham manages to tie Lord in Moncton, he'll win at least 40 seats. I don't expect either to happen.

This explained away in that the "Moncton" area goes all the way to Richobucto while the "Saint John" area includes Albert County. Still the numbers in the Saint John area are outrageous and make a clear demonstration on a Tory slant I think as the numbers are impossible. Even the Transcript admits as much.

So, to sum up, I never have much faith in Bristol impartiality or accuracy and their regional numbers are clearly junk. However, if their record holds, this should mean that the Liberals are currently in the lead by as much as about 8 points, something I think is possible for an end result and perhaps even now but, I think, it is still a dead heat. I guess time will tell whether my gut is more accurate than statistics.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sign update

I am in Moncton now where signs are up everywhere. The Tories have their bigger signs up here (before I'd seen only 8x8) and it has essentially the same stuff on it so it seems less cluttered. It is however still busier than the sleek Liberal signs.

Mike Murphy is the only Liberal that seems to have signs up yet but the Liberals also have their Orimulsion and job creation "issue" signs up.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fredericton update

I spent much of the day in Fredericton (southside) and saw some interesting things. Brad Green had a bunch of signs up in Fton-Silverwood and Greg Byrne a bunch in Fton-Lincoln - no surprises. BUT I was surprised that the only private property signs were NDP.

Dennis Atchison had one sign I saw and Allison Brewer had lots on private property. Maybe I and others are underestimating her?

Also Brad Green has a radio ad running. Despite the hype of leadership coming from the Tory campaign, Green's ad didn't mention Bernard Lord and not even the PC Party. Weird.

In an election year...

... If it moves hire it, if it doesn't pave it"

That is one of my favourite political proverbs and, though I haven't hear of any mass hiring, I couldn't find a back road in Victoria County that didn't have at least some patching work done and, as I type, I am sitting stopped in my car on the TransCanada south of Nackawic where traffic in the southbound lane is completely stopped due to construction.

In other Upper St. John Valley news the Tories are way ahead in the sign game. While Chris McLaughlin (Victoria-Tobique), Dale Graham (king of Carleton), David Alward (Woodstock) and Carl Urquhart (York) have their signs all over public property, I have only seen one Liberal sign (outside of in the windows of campaign offices) at that was of Ronald Ouellette (Grand Falls-Drummond-St. Andre).

The Tory signs are a bit cluttered on a white background, they have a large candidate photo, name if large font, riding in large font, campaign slogan, PC Team Lord logo and pcnb.org.

The Liberal signs are pretty simple, just candidate photo, party logo and cnadidate name.

I guess it is no surprise the Tories are ahead in getting their signs printed and up - they new the election was coming for longer annd had all of their candidates nominated by election call while the Liberals are still (or at least were until yesterday) nominating candidates.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Northwest NB

I was in the ridings of Edmundston-St. Basile, Restigouche-la-Vallee, Grand Falls-Drummond-St. Andre and Victoria-Tobique today.

The only election signs I saw up were some for Tory candidate Chris McLaughlin who could only win the seat in a McKenna-esque sweep for Lord.

No one seems to know who the man is and from what I hear he may actually live in GF-D-StA. One resident of the riding asked rhetorically "what could he promise us? To make sure our hospitals close?"

The sign in Liberal HQ says "making job creation a priority again". In Perth-Andover, Tory HQ is twice the size of the Liberals but in Plaster Rock there doesn't even seem to be a Tory office.

Humourously, Liberal HQ in Plaster Rock is in the same building as Service New Brunswick. One must assume SNB rents their space!

Posting from the road


Some excitement for you (or for me anyway!). I am advised that I can rig this up to post by email and have done so. Here is my first post from the road.

As I travel around on holiday over the next few weeks I'll post by mail and provide you updates on things I notice all around the picture province. (Election related of course)


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A few knocks on Lord and then I'm outta here

I forgot to comment yesterday that I was rather amused by a couple knocks on Lord. A while a go a commenter came after me on my claim that Lord wasn't popular in the north. Well, according to yesterday's papers, it seems he isn't. He was at a big rally for Paul Robichaud and Robichaud forgot to introduce him. People started to file out and Robichaud went back to the podium to say the premier was to speak. Apparently, people continued to file out and a reporter heard one person say that they had no interest hearing from the likes of Bernard Lord. And this was at a Tory rally!

The only one was the Tory candidate in Nigadoo-Chaleur has apparently ordered and put up non-standard campaign signs. What is non standard? They lack the picture of the premier and "Team/Equipe Lord" slogan.

Also in today's papers and since the election began, I've noted that Lord has repeatedly referred to Shawn Graham as simply "Shawn". Never "Shawn Graham", never "Mr. Graham", never "the leader of the opposition" or "the leader of the Liberal Party". This is clearly a part of a plan by the Tories to paint Graham as a weak leader in that they are not taking him seriously. A warning to my Tory friends, you tried this in 2003 and look where it got you.

The Tories like to think that the 2003 election was a fluke based on auto insurance. I say that is a load of bull. Auto insurance helped the Liberals and got them to, maybe, 15 seats. But the really clincher was the fact that though Shawn Graham comes off as pretty weak in the House and in scrums, he is really good with people. That and the Liberals ran an awesome campaign.

The reverse is true for Lord. He comes off as smart and in command of his files in the House and in scrums, but on the campaign trial he is aloof and often has the "deer-in-headlight" look when questioned by common folk.

Shawn Graham won 26 seats last time by having the common touch, Lord painting Graham as a common man helps the Liberal cause not the other way around.

This is it for me for a while folks. I am going on vacation until Labour Day. I'll try to post here and there but I won't be able to do so on a daily basis as I have been.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Tidbits which have spun me into a prophesy on the NDP

  • T.J. Burke says that both he and Kelly Lamrock will be in cabinet following the election. Assuming that the Liberals form a government it would be almost certain that Greg Byrne, Eugene McGinley and Les Smith would be in the government caucus. Not all 5 could be in cabinet all being from greater Fredericton. One wonders if T.J. should be so certain? He has proved himself a very intelligent and effective MLA but that is a very talented and experienced caucus for the capital region. Somebody who should be in, won't be.

  • Bernard Lord is mocking Shawn Graham's plan to hire a key group to advise the premier and cabinet on broader policy issues. Lord's criticism is two-pronged: (1) Graham must not have faith in New Brunswickers if he feels he needs to bring in outsiders for ideas; (2) local MLAs will have no authority if the premier and cabinet are simply guided by these "top dogs". Fairly weak and superficial attacks in my mind but that may be effective. In resposne to point one, a lot of New Brunswickers are wary of "outsiders" but a cabinet secretariat is an idea used in many provinces, including New Brunswick under Tory hero Richard Hatfield, and could easily be structured to include top New Brunswickers, top ex-pat New Brunswickers and true "outsiders" who would bring new and unique perspectives tempered by the New Brunswick reality imposed upon them by New Brunswickers in the secretariat and the whole-New Brunswick cabinet. Point two is just silly and immature. Ministers already receive most of their policy advise from top bureaucrats in their departments; this would just allow for a more solid and consistent vision from the centre. It would not in anyway change the role of the local MLA to stand up for their communities in the policy development process.

  • Brian Gallant, the candidate running for the Liberals in Moncton East is interestingly enough a former Mr. New Brunswick and current president of the UdeM student union. The UdeM SU presidency is of course the only office to which Bernard Lord was successfully elected (after which he lost bids for Dieppe town council, MLA and PC nomination for the 1997 federal election) before winning the PC leadership in 1997. Perhaps we should not underestimate Mr. Gallant, 24, considering that he is just like the premier in having been a young student politician who surprised many by defeating the establishment. However, if history is to be our guide, Mr. Gallant needs to become a loser a few times over first.

  • Chisolm Pothier, the former press secretary to Premier Lord who took the fall when Lord leaked a letter containing personal information about a constituent to tarnish the reputation of Liberal MLA Carmel Robichaud (rather than answer the substantive and unrelated questions she was asking) has made a triumphant return representing the Tory campaign to the media during this election cycle.

  • Rick Miles, a early 20s student as I understand it, is the Liberal candidate for Fredericton-Silverwood according to various reports. This surprises me, but apparently not many others as it hasn't been mentioned that he defeated Anne Bertrand, in my mind a sure bet for cabinet, for the nomination. This could really change the race for Fredericton-Silverwood. It is presently marked too close to call, and I'll keep it there for now, but will this guy: a) prove to be a strong candidate despite his youth and inexperience; b) give Brad Green a surprise 4th election victory; c) allow Dennis Atchison and strong and well now local guy running under the NDP banner a sneak victory? Option c may sound silly but Green managed only 38% of the vote in 2003 against 2 relatively weak candidates. If dissatisfaction with Green is high, as it would seem to be, Atchison could become the consensus opposition candidate. This would spell for an interesting scenario down the road if Atchison were to win a seat and Allison Brewer were to lose in her bid (as is expected). Atchison was promoted as a potential leadership candidate and is very much a Robert Chisholm-type of charismatic moderate (by NDP standards) who could lead the NB NDP down the road that the NS NDP went in 1998. Very interesting.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bernard Lord and Sigmund Freud

I was very intrigued when a PC Party (newly renamed "Team Lord") news release cited the large length of Bernard Lord's campaign kick off speech (23 minutes). This was a long speech to kick of the campaign which Lord had called due to the small size of his ever shrinking caucus.

Lord, frustrated that he could not control the size of his caucus, that it had shrunk greatly since he came to power and that it was becoming so small that he risked being declared a minorty, called an election. To kick of the election, Lord was quick to point out that the caucus may be small but the forespeech was impressive lasting at 23 minutes.

Hat tip to Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer from whom I stole the idea...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Campaign websites launched

The Tories and Liberals have each launched new election sites.

The Liberal site a section for campaign ads, something I compained was missing earlier today, though it is empty. I presume that they will fill that hole shortly.

The NDP launched a new site last week but as of this writing it still has errors and missing information.

CBC launches election site

Love, like or hate the CBC they do put together good election sites. You can find their site on the 2006 NB election here.

Friday round up

Liberals are saying that the regulatory delay in lowering gas prices cost New Brunswickers $1.5 million. Very interesting. I will be curious to see whether or not this resonates with people.


All kinds of convenient happenings all of a sudden, surely with no coincidence or tie in to an election call, I'm sure...

After almost a year, the Tories have appointed a committee to review the study they commissioned (The MacKay Report) on education. First of all, why do you appoint someone to study an issue if you are just going to study the study. Second, if this is your plan, why can you not appoint your committee days or weeks after the report? I can understand a year of time to sort out how and what you are going to implement but a referral for further study could come right away?

Despite promising to do it in 2003 and in June saying it was bogged down in negotiations and could not happen any sooner than January. The Tories have announced $9 million for UNB to open more nursing seats. I don't understand how this could have taken over three years to settle. The last time I checked universities didn't create much of a fuss when they were offered money.

The Stan Cassidy centre just received $350,000 to create a unit to assist people with autism. Perhaps the Tories feared that lack of services for autism would become a quiet but hot issue like it did in 2003?


Interestingly Graham was in Dieppe yesterday subtly chiding the area cities. While promising some goodies, he was quick to stress that Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview have to work cooperatively and not compete with each other. Good policy but probably not good politics. I commend Graham for saying what's right on this one.


Bernard Lord is a meanie. He called Graham and Brewer and told New Brunswickers that the election would be called on Saturday, August 19. Apparently some time yesterday it got leaked that 1000 invitations had been sent around for people to come to the post election call rally tonight at 6 p.m. at the Fredericton Airport. Lord has managed to pull the rug out from under Graham and Brewer, whose launches are scheduled for tomorrow, and will probably dominate the Saturday papers as a result. An astute political move but people are growing cynical, they want fair play and will, I suspect, react badly to this. Also, Lord is starting his campaign launch in front of a hanger and then getting on a plane and taking of to Moncton? I don't see the "little guy" relating much to this.


In Twilight Zone watch, the Times & Transcript seems to be talking to a fair minded policital scientist, while the Telegraph-Journal is taking to someone with an obvious Tory bias. Is the sky also a neon shade of purple? How bizarre. From the Moncton paper:

Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said New Brunswickers will be treated to an exciting election because there is no clear favourite between either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

"I don't think we can really make any kind of call at this point. There is just not enough information about where the electors are in their thinking and leaning," Bateman said. "No wedge issue has really galvanized yet, no issue is really dividing the parties. This is a real wide open race at this point."


The Liberals have launched their first ads on energy. Both on radio and TV. They are described thusly in the TJ:

According to the ad, the premier 'wasted' $2.2 billion of taxpayers' money in the 'fiasco' surrounding the failed contract with Venezuela to import the low cost fuel Orimulsion to run the Coleson Cove generating station.

That adds up to $8,000 per home, the Liberal ad says.

Halfway through the ad, Liberal Leader Shawn Graham makes an appearance, and the ad switches focus to his energy plan for the province.

It wraps up with the Liberal slogan for this campaign 'People For A Change.'
I haven't heard/seen these and am strongly annoyed that they are not available on the Liberal website.

Graham: Regulation if necessary, but not necessarily regulation

The Liberals pledged today to scrap the Lord gas-tax regulation strucutre but to look at alternatives:

For immediate release
August 18, 2006

Graham will eliminate “Lord Tax Hike” of 3.8 cents on gasoline
Lord Gas Price Regulation to be scrapped

Fredericton – Liberal Leader Shawn Graham is vowing that a Liberal government will ensure New Brunswick has the lowest provincial excise gas taxes east of Alberta. Currently, New Brunswick drivers pay 14.5 cents a litre in excise tax including a total 3.8 cent increase added by the Lord Progressive Conservatives. “By eliminating the Lord tax hike on gasoline, New Brunswick will have the lowest provincial excise tax on gasoline east of Alberta,” Graham stated.

“Gas prices are hitting New Brunswick’s pocket books hard and we need leadership on this issue. The Lord Government has only given New Brunswickers gas tax hikes and failed regulation,” said Graham. “It’s time for a change.”

“We can’t control world markets but we can more money in people’s pockets. That’s why a Liberal government will scrap the 3.8 cent Lord tax immediately and we will ensure that New Brunswick’s provincial excise tax on gasoline remains the lowest east of Alberta throughout our mandate.”

As well, drivers of non-commercial diesel vehicles will enjoy an equivalent tax rebate when they renew their registration. “We will provide a break to people who choose to purchase and drive diesel cars, which are very fuel efficient. Given the different market structure for diesel, a reduction in vehicle registration fees would provide the equivalent relief to these drivers.”

Graham has also committed to scrap the current gas regulation scheme and work with consumers and stakeholders to develop a new framework for gas prices within 120 days of the election.

“It’s obvious the current regulation scheme isn’t working. It’s not working for consumers and it’s not working for our small, independent retailers,” said Graham. “We will get rid of these failed regulations and work with New Brunswickers to create a new environment that ensures gas tax cuts are passed on to the consumer.”

Eliminating the Lord excise tax hike and reducing the cost of non-commercial diesel vehicle registration will mean that the Province will forego $42.8 million in revenue. However, this reduction in revenue will not affect funds currently dedicated to road construction and maintenance.

“As per our Charter for Change, we will rise to the energy challenges faced by New Brunswickers.”


I think that this is the right move for Graham because I don't think that people are swallowing the gas regulation in general nor specifically when you contrast it to the systems in neighbouring provinces. Though he is quite vague with his statement that he would scrap it but the alternativer is to be determined based on studies and consulation in the first four months of power, it may work. In theory this is the right way to go about it. This is a complex issue and an opposition party doesn't have the resources of a bureaucracy to study models and bring in experts. That said, this sort of thing could be painted by Lord as a question of whether Graham really means what he says, whether he is smart enough to come up with a plan, etc, etc

However, this is not dissimilar to Graham's "Public Insurance if neccesary, but not neccesarily Public Insurance" style pledge in 2003. As you may recall, Graham pledged to bring in a series of regulations that would lower insurance by 25% in 90 days. If it was not effective then and only then would he bring in the public insurance.

UPDATE: CBC covers this announcement here quite positively.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Moncton East and Fredericton-Silverwood

A couple of riding changes today, one based on a candidate entering the race and one based on an expected candidate not entering.

In Fredericton-Silverwood, I had already started to pen Health Minister Brad Green's obituary. That may have been premature. While Anne Bertrand will be a strong candidate for the Liberals (presuming she wins her nomination on Saturday), she may have trouble shoring up her left flank. Dennis Atchison, who ran in conservative Fredericton North in 2003 and still managed to get 17% of the vote, will be able to hold, at least, the 22% that the NDP scored in Fredericton South last time. I am not saying that Atchison is likely to win here, but he may be strong enough to let Green win by sneaking up the middle. Therefore, I am moving this one from leaning Liberal to too close to call.

In Moncton East, as a commentor on this blog had already said, it seems Chris Collins will not be making a rematch against the premier. This is still a Liberal riding but it takes a far bit to knock off a party leader who has proved to be electorally viable in the district. I am moving this one from too close to call to leans Progressive Conservative.

Gas Tax and Surplus politics

Conviently timed surprise surplus of $243 million reported in all papers thanks almost wholly to high NB Power revenues. This should be a boost to Lord and was part of his first good news day of the campaign. However, Graham should use this to boost himself. His very optomistic plan to make New Brunswick a "have" province by 2025 centres around energy revenues. This proves that energy can make a lot of money for the province and he should be all over it.

Lord had a really good news day today with the headline in the TJ being a big "LORD HINTS AT GAS TAX CUT" next to a smaller headline saying "Premier says PUB reacted too slowly". Lord sounds like a champion for the little guy and touts how regulation will bring the stability to allow him to lower gas taxes without the oil companies just jacking the prices up and taking extra profits at the government's expense. It is actually a good point which hadn't occured to me. If oil prices stay low and Lord can justify regulation through this message then it could work well for him.

That said, he may have some trouble reconciling a gas tax cut with the comments of his finance minister who said last week that lower gas taxes meant closing roads.

There is also a good piece in the TJ talking about candidates with new electorates due to boundary changes. It will indeed be a challenge for a number of incumbents.

Also, I have a few riding changes to make due to some candidacies and lack of candidacies. I'll do those in a separate post just to make it easier to track.

Two fun media advisories from the Liberals

Event : Leader of the Official Opposition Shawn Graham, will hold a Press Conference on Energy, in Fredericton, on Friday morning.

Time & Date : 9:30 a.m., Friday, August 18, 2006

Location: Esso (newly restored) at the intersection of Woodstock Road and the old Trans Canada Highway (next to Tim Hortons) where we have permission to park.
Emphasis added, commentary not required.

Event: Leader of the Official Opposition Shawn Graham and Mayor Brad Woodside, will hold a Press Conference regarding the CCNB Campus of Fredericton, Friday morning.

Time & Date: 10:30 a.m. Friday, August 18, 2006

Location: City Hall, 397 Queen Street Fredericton
Commentary: (1) I believe, in English, it is NBCC. (2) It seems Shawn and Brad have made up.


more to come in terms of a full run down of today's media etc...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wacky Wednesday

So I received a news release from the Liberals announcing nursing home administrator Gwen Cullins-Jones as a candidate in the strongly Tory riding of Carleton. That is fine but I found the following passage in the release a little bit fishy:

Gwen also announced today that former Lieutenant-Governor Margaret McCain has agreed to be honorary chair of her campaign. Other members of her campaign team will be named at a later date.
I am not sure how comfortable I am with this in principle. But, I suppose, if another former LG can be a senator, president of a riding association and key supporter of a federal leadership candidate and a former Governor General can run for parliament, there is lots of precedent. However, to me, this sort of thing isn't "cool". If you are to represent the Crown, you should keep that in mind. I can't imagine Edward VIII, after abdicating, would have ever been allowed to run for or act in support of a candidate for some partisan office.

I digress....

Liberal leadership candidate Micheal Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton were both in NB yesterday for la fête de l'Acadie. Both took time to criticize Lord.

Ignatieff seemed to have hit a nerve based on Lord's response to these comments:

I have it on good authority that prime minister Martin offered Bernard Lord a considerably better deal than he's taken from Stephen Harper.

The voters of new Brunswick will have to ask tough questions about the premier's judgment.

I don't want to intervene in a provincial election except to say that is the question, whether the premier has exercised good judgment in federal-provincial relations.
Layton went after my favourite issue-du-jour:

As far as I know an official election call hasn't been made.

It's interesting to see that lots of public dollars are being spent by elected officials travelling around in anticipation of an election that hasn't been called yet.

I find that rather peculiar.

Candidate Watch:

Jack Carr, twin brother of cabinet minister Jody Carr, defeats Steve McCready, son of former speaker, minister and Queens South MLA Bob McCready, by a margin of 358-212. Big nomination and good sign for the Tories in Grand Lake-Gagetwon. They've picked the stronger of the two candidates at least in terms of name (and face!) recognition.

Heather Hughes, who I've never heard of but whose resume doesn't sound spectacular, is running against Kelly Lamrock in Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak. I would say has a snowball's chance in hell.

Other News:

Coverage of yesterday's Liberal release and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation on my favourite issue in the TJ and Gleaner.

Gas prices down 10 cents (through an emergency clause in the regulation, gas stations have not received notice and this comes 5 days after it would have dropped in a non-regulated market and 2 days after it dropped in the regulated markets of NS and PEI... yeah great system for consumers)

Absolutely no coverage of the election in the Times & Transcript. Probably because it was the 4th or 5th consecutive good news day for the Liberals with Lord continue to play catch up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Liberals go after Tories on government waste

I am not going to make a habit of posting Liberal Party press releases, but I have been calling for them to do this and am impressed. Surely no one disagrees with what is going on do they?

For Immediate Release
August 15, 2006

Campaigning on Taxpayers’ Dime Undemocratic and Unacceptable
Liberals call on Premier to immediately ground government plane and freeze ministerial expense accounts

FREDERICTON – Liberal Party President Greg Byrne, along with MLA Victor Boudreau (LIB-Shediac-Cap-Pelé) expressed their concern today regarding Premier Lord’s decision to continue spending taxpayer dollars on campaign-style spending announcements.

“Many people are speculating on why the Premier pre-announced the election date prior to dropping the writ and now the answer has become painfully obvious. The Premier is using this time to campaign on the taxpayer's dime” said Byrne. “It's unprecedented for a Premier to “pre-call” an election. It's an affront to our parliamentary traditions and an insult to the Office of the Lieutenant-Governor.”

Since announcing his intention to call the election for September 18th, the Lord government has been on a multi-million dollar spending spree, with upwards of $121 million dollars in spending announcements in the past two weeks alone.

“You would think that a Premier would have the strength of character to at least admit to the truth. Instead, he continues denying that these announcements have anything to do with the imminent election call. It’s outrageous.” said Boudreau. “The government plane should be grounded immediately and all ministerial expense accounts frozen immediately. The people of New Brunswick should not be footing the bill for the Progressive Conservative Party’s pre-writ campaigning.”

The director of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, John Williamson, stated in a media interview today, “I think it’s cheeky and a misuse of public money… he's [Lord] really jumped the gun here, and, frankly, he's playing fast and loose with the spirit of elections.”

To use government resources such as Communications New Brunswick staff, communications services, vehicles, and even the Government plane to make these announcements is costing the taxpayers of New Brunswick, not assisting them.

“This kind of undemocratic and unacceptable behaviour must stop, and it must stop today,” said Byrne. “This is an unprecedented abuse of taxpayer's money. The Premier is using the physical, financial and human resources of the Government of New Brunswick for purely political purposes.”


Nepisiguit update

Yesterday it was revealed than long time MLA Frank Branch (who served from 1970-1995 and from 2003 to present) will not seek re-election. Branch, who was sat as an independent since January when an investigation into him for activities outside of the legislature escalated, was a big question mark here.

Had he run as a Liberal, I think he would have won. As an indepedent it would require investigation. But with him out of the race, this is strongly favourable to the Liberals.

I am going to call this as leaning Liberal for now due to the possibility of a strong NDP campaign from Gilles Halley. If Halley doesn't run, then I will move this to safe Liberal.

Tanker Tuesday

Quick media round up

  • An article on hospital closures and cuts and their effect, mayor of Woodstock says: "I think that there are some people who are certainly going to remember what the Tory government did to the Town of Woodstock"

  • More coverage of Lib education announcement

  • Frank Branch not running - as I result I will modify prediction... standby for that update
Now for more substantive comments based on the press:

Richard Meyers, former VP and current prof at STU who has only recently become a regular political commentator and who recently served on the electoral boundaries commission, seems to be in love with Lord. So one member of the democracy commission has become a convert to Lord's politics and now a member of the boundaries commission is his best champion in the media. Maybe if Brent is still reading he can let us know if they served a lot of koolaid at those meetings? ;) There was another over-the-top piece last week from Meyers but this one was really out there.

He says Graham is toast if he loses (we all agree, including Graham) but that Lord could stay around and run again in four years. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? If Lord loses to Graham, who both he and his party view as completely incompotent, how could he possibly be welcome to say as leader of the opposition until 2010? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Meyes also says that, though Lord would be welcome, he would probably resign on his own because he "would likely be enticed by offers on Bay Street or in Ottawa". In fairness, Lord is already damaged goods and not as hot a commodity as he once was in Ottawa. If he losses, I think that they will have lost interest. As for Bay Street, maybe, but Bernard Lord is no Frank McKenna and I don't remember Louis Robichaud or Richard Hatfield being offered Bay Street gigs so it isn't a right of passage for former premiers.


Front page of TJ reads "NO STABILITY AT THE GAS PUMP" and extensively quotes Rick Brewer as the champion of fair gas prices in his role as chair of the Liberal Task Force. If gas prices become an issue and Brewer continues to get front line coverage as a result, this could save him from Brent Taylor's challenge. We'll have to watch for whether or not this develops. Article also says Graham will be announcing the Liberal plan on this soon. I am curious to see whether or not they have the balls to do what's right and say they'll throw it out all together.


There is an interesting piece focusing around Allison Brewer on women in politics. She says she will try to have 50/50 female/male candidates. Lord says he could have as many as nine (I think the same as last time - 5 of his won). Former McKenna minister and former Shawn Graham chief of staff Joan Kingston, who was tasked by Graham with recruiting women, said the Liberals may have 19. I think that could be a record if they meet that goal. Very interesting.


The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a conservative thinktank, is all over Lord - as I am - for the massive spending. Let me quote their national director:

I think its cheeky and a misuse of public money.

He's really jumped the gun here, and, frankly, he's playing fast and loose with the spirit of elections.

This is an election that's being called because Bernard Lord has decided to call the election campaign, the Opposition didn't force it. Either get on with governing, or campaign, but don't do both at the same time
The Liberals make a good point on this as well: "Not only are they making announcements with taxpayers' money, but they're also using the government communications system, the government vehicles, planes and so on to travel the province and make these announcements."

I really hope the Liberals hammer home on this. It makes my blood boil. GRRRRRRR!


NOTICE: You have until 6 p.m. today to join the PC Party and file against Tanker Malley for the nomination in Bay du Vin. Anyone like the Tories but not Malley? Spinks perhaps you should file!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Riding watch update

Please see the original run-down of ridings, which I will use as a master list, here

Kent South - this riding is traditionally Liberal and I preliminarily called it a Tory hold based on the fact that the only declared candidate for the Liberal nomination was former Bouctouche mayor Raymond Duplessis who was running notwithstanding the fact that Bouctouche had been redistributed out of the riding. Today it is announced that the Liberals will be running star candidate Nadine Hébert, a popular Acadienne actress who doubles as the VP of an oil company. All at the age of 27. I am moving this over to too close to call.

Charlotte-Campobello - no change in prediction here yet but the papers today no longer cite the mayor of St. Stephen as a candidate but add 2003 candidate Madeline Drummie to the list of possibilities.

Fundy-River Valley - I did not realize how close the margin was here in 2003. If it was that close with a two-term incumbent then I think it is in the bag for the Liberals as an open seat. Moreover, the Liberals will be running either 2003 candidate Kevin Quinn (who one presumes could at least hold his vote) or popular local figure Jack Keir. I'll call this a Liberal gain but this early on I am not ready to make put any changing-hands seats in the safe column so I will list it as a lean.

The Times & Transcript's ridings to watch and other news

The Times & Transcript is running 10 ridings to watch, most of which are fairly well on.

Here is the run down:
  • Bathurst

  • Centre-Peninsule-Saint-Sauveur

  • Dieppe Centre-Lewisville

  • Fredericton-Lincoln

  • Fundy-River Valley

  • Miramichi-Bay du Vin

  • Quispamsis

  • Restigouche-la-Vallee

  • Southwest Miramichi

  • Tantramar

They describe these ridings as follows as: "the next government could hinge on the outcome of these 10 hotly contested ridings".

I don't think that that is a very accurate picture. Though the above are all interesting races for different reasons, these certainly won't be the 10 closest races by any means. If the Liberals lose Bathurst then they are in BIG trouble. If the Tories can't pick up Southwest Miramichi then the party's over. If either of those ridings are close then the election won't be.

Having read some stuff in the papers today, I see that there are a few candidates names popping up so I will make a few prediction changes shortly.

There is a big puff piece in the TJ with Lord and his candidate in Kent suggesting they can take out Shawn Graham. I laughed. However, I maintain that Saulnier shouldn't be underestimated and work in the riding will be required on Graham's part. Bouctouche will be a real challenge and the margin will not be as comfortable as it was in 2003.

The Liberals seem to be managing, so far, to dominated the media as they did in 2003. There is a good favourable piece for the Liberals on their education platform to be announced today, several pieces on SJ harbour cleanup and one positive article on Graham pledging not to go negative. On the other hand the Tories are mentioned as footnotes in most articles and the only article on the Tories has Lord promising to stay positive and then through out the article he and Brenda "the offenda" Fowlie going hard negative. Moreover, Lord had little of his own to say. Every quote from Lord was in response to something the Liberals had said or done. This campaign is looking like deja vu all over again but this time, Lord isn't starting with as big of a lead and the campaign is one week longer. If Lord doesn't right his ship soon, then there will be a Liberal majority getting in the neighbourhood of 40 seats.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Campaign day 1 (or -8 depending on your perspective)

The Times & Transcript has a list of all candidates nominated or announced to date and this is included on the Wikipedia election site.

It is interesting that according to the T&T there are three interested in the Liberal nomination for Nepisiguit but according to the TJ there seems to be some outside change that Frank Branch will be the Liberal candidate, I'll quote the whole article as it is rather brief:

The fate of Frank Branch, the Independent MLA for Nepisiguit and a former member of the Liberal caucus, remains unclear.

Branch, the longest-serving MLA in the legislature at 27 years, quit the Liberal party in January after Bathurst police began an investigation into activities at the North Shore Forest Products Marketing Board where he was a senior employee for the past decade.

The independent MLA alleged he was the victim of an elaborate frame-up during several speeches in the legislature this spring.

"I've not had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Branch but I hope to have the opportunity to talk to Mr. Branch this weekend to see what his long-term plans are," said Liberal Leader Shawn Graham.

Graham wouldn't say if he would welcome the MLA back into the Liberal fold for the election.

"It's important that I talk to Mr. Branch," he said.

Branch could not be reached for comment.
So I am not sure what Graham wants to talk to Branch about (i.e. whether it is to ask him to run as a Liberal, to ask him not to run or what have you) but he certainly seems very eager to do so. Wikipedia claims (I see no source elsewhere so I remain unconvinced) that Gilles Halley is seeking the NDP nod in Nepisiguit. I maintain that if he does so, he could win the riding.

Also, the Tories are running a strong candidate against Shawn Graham - the mayor of Bouctouche, Aldéo Saulnier, is going to be the Tory candidate. Though I think Graham should be safe, he'll have to pay a lot more attention to his riding than he would have liked considering that Saulnier comes from the heavily francophone part of the redistributed riding which Graham has never represented before.

The TJ also reports that "Liberal Leader Shawn Graham has already acknowledged this election is his last chance to ascend to the premier's office". Not surprising that that is the case but interesting that that is already out there, from Graham, before election day.

The T&T, TJ and DG all may reference to the ludicrous amoung of money that has been spent over the past while and all state that having another week to spread money around is probably part of the reason why Lord is not formally calling the election until next week. If this continues to get attention, I think the reaction towards Lord will be quite negative. A look at Communications New Brunswick's site will show you a huge ramp up in the number of announcements lately. People are tired of this kind of politics IMHO.

That's it from me for now. I am away for the weekend so you probably won't see anything new from me until late Sunday or more likely Monday. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A brief look at the ridings

UPDATE: The election is now over. Browse through this page to see how my initial August 11 prediction evolved and follow links to individual updates. My final call was L30-PC24-NDP1 while the result was L29-PC26. Relatively close. For my self-evaluation click here.

PREDICTION UPDATES: August 14; August 15; August 17; August 29; September 5; September 6; September 7; September 8; September 9; September 10; September 13; September 14; September 15; September 17

Well now that we have a date the true excitement begins. My regular daily media round up was pre-empted by the setting of a date and rather than get to that, I am going to do my preliminary "ridings to watch" that I promised a few days ago.

Please remember that we are facing new ridings for the first time since 1995 so that in and off itself makes things interesting. I'll begin with the easy ones which are ridings which will not change hands and I won't bother with any commentary.

Safe ridings

  • Campbellton-Restigouche Centre (Liberal); moved to leans Liberal on September 8, to too close to call on September 10 and to leans PC on September 15 and finally to Liberal in the final prediction on September 17

  • Dalhousie-Restigouche East (Liberal)

  • Nigadoo-Chaleur (Liberal)

  • Bathurst (Liberal); moved to leans Liberal on September 9 but back to safe Liberal on September 15 listed as Liberal but a "riding to watch" in the final prediction on September 17

  • Caraquet (Liberal); moved to leans Liberal on September 14 but back to safe Liberal on September 15

  • Miramichi Bay-Neguac (Liberal)

  • Rogersville-Koouchibouguac (Progressive Conservative); moved to leans PC on September 13 and marked as a "riding to watch" in the final prediction on September 17

  • Kent (Liberal)

  • Shediac-Cap-Pelé (Liberal)

  • Moncton West (Progressive Conservative); moved to too close to call on September 5 and then to leans PC on September 6 and listed as a "riding to watch" in the final prediction on September 17

  • Moncton North (Liberal)

  • Moncton-Crescent (Progressive Conservative)

  • Petitcodiac (Progressive Conservative)

  • Riverview (Progressive Conservative)

  • Albert (Progressive Conservative)

  • Kings East (Liberal); moved to leans Liberal on August 29 and then to too close to call on September 8 and to leans PC on September 9 and marked as a PC pickup in the final prediction on September 17

  • Hampton-Kings (Progressive Conservative); moved to leans PC on August 29 but back to safe PC on September 10

  • Saint John-Fundy (Liberal)

  • Saint John Harbour (Liberal)

  • Saint John Lancaster (Liberal)

  • Charlotte-The Isles (Liberal)

  • Oromocto (Progressive Conservative)

  • Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak (Liberal)

  • New Maryland-Sunbury West (Progressive Conservative)

  • Carleton (Progressive Conservative)

  • Victoria-Tobique (Liberal)

  • Grand Falls-Drummond-Saint-André (Liberal)

  • Edmundston-Saint-Basile (Progressive Conservative)

  • Madawaska-les-Lacs (Progressive Conservative)
In the bag: Liberals 17, Progressive Conservatives 12

I know I am going to be accused of being partisan here, but it is no secret that the Tories have a weak caucus (due to having had trouble recruiting candidates when they were 20 points back in 1999 and then winning big and keeping all of those (only Bruce Fitch is not from the class of 1999 or earlier) while the Liberals have remarkably strong caucus members for an opposition party. This gives the Liberals a strong advantage (one which I think is actually stronger but I am trying to temper any koolaid I may have drank).

I am pretty confident that the above 29 seats will not change hands but, if the tide turns hard in either direction and there is a big sweep coming things could be revised.

Preliminary ridings to watch

Nepisiguit - currently Independent, formerly Liberal

Frank Branch could run again, either as an independent or as a Liberal, largely to try and vindicate his name. His candidacy as an independent would make this race very interesting. It remains unclear what effect the controversy surrounding him has had on his local popularity, I'll need to do some digging there. Also, Gilles Halley, the NDPer who ran here in 1999 and got 28% is still interested in the party and said in 2005 that he would have run for leader but the timing was difficult for him. If he were to run, particularly if Branch was running as an independent, he would have a real shot here. Changed to leaning Liberal on August 15 and to safe Liberal on September 7
Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou - currently PC

Paul Robichaud may be the first person to have ever been re-elected in this riding. I know it went Liberal in 78, PC in 82, Liberal in 87, PC in 91, Liberal in 95 and PC in 99. Not sure what happened in 74 though it probably was Liberal so maybe Robichaud is the second person. In any event, the electorate is clearly volatile and, notwithstanding Robichaud's huge margin in 2003, it is worth looking at at least preliminarily. Changed to leans PC on August 29 and to safe PC on September 7
Centre-Péninsulke-Saint-Sauveur - currently Liberal

This is a rural riding with probably the worst economic problems on the Peninsula, Liberal Denis Landry (who won in 95 but lost in 99) may face problems simply due to general frustration among the electorate and he won very narrowly in 2003. Moved to leans PC on September 8 and to leans Liberal on September 15, finally it is listed as PC but as one of ten "ridings to watch" in the final prediction on September 17.
Tracadie-Sheila - currently PC *incumbent retiring

This riding, once the fiefdom of Doug Young, has had a bitterly divided Liberal Association ever since. With the seat open, depending on the Liberals unity and the quality of candidate the PCs pick to replace the popular retiring Elvy Robichaud it could go either way. changed to leans PC on August 29 and to safe PC on September 10 but back to leans PC on September 15 but marked as a PC hold in the final prediction on September 17.
Miramichi-Bay du Vin - currently PC

Before 2004, Tanker was undefeatable. After the hospital controversy the Tories were destroyed here but Tanker's personal rep managed to survive though with some damage. After February 18, 2006 people were uncertain but when Tanker rejoined the Tories he was toast. That faced with the fact that the Liberals are running Bill Fraser who chaired the hospital protest committee, this is the first seat I am going to call to change hands. Liberal gain. Moved to safe Liberal on September 10.
Miramichi-Centre - currently Liberal

This has been the most reliably Tory seat on the Miramichi going PC in 1982 and 1999 and almost in 1991 (the Liberals won in a tight three-way race involving the leader of CoR) so with a good candidate the Tories could win here, particularly if they are going to hold government. Moved to leans PC on September 9 and to leans Liberal on September 15 but marked as a Liberal hold in the final prediction on September 17.
Southwest Miramichi - currently Liberal

This is, on paper, a perfect conservative seat (notice the small c). It is rural and religious. Hunting and fishing and the tourism surrounding them are key industries. That said, Liberal Rick Brewer is a conservative, at least socially, and I would have expected an easy win for him. Brent Taylor, former MLA here from 1991 to 1995 and briefly leader of the CoR Party however is a formidable challenger. Folks in these parts primarily read the Miramichi Leader and Fredericton Daily Gleaner in which Taylor has had a column since 1998. He is still well known, perhaps better known, than he was when he was elected 15 years ago. I think this could go either way but the edge is to Taylor and I'll call this a Tory gain.
Kent South - currently PC

Kent County is supposed to be Liberal country but Kent South did elect a Tory in the big 1982 victory and that Tory's EA is today's MLA. Moreover, it looks like the Liberal candidate will be former Bouctouche Mayor Raymond Duplessis. The problem? Bouctouche was redistributed into Liberal leader Shawn Graham's riding and Duplessis fought it angrily. This should have been a Liberal pick up but, unless there is a big sweep, I am going to call it a Tory hold. Changed to too close to call on August 14 and then to leans Liberal on September 5 and back to too close to call on September 8 and then to leans PC on September 10; kept in the leans PC column as one of ten "ridings to watch" in the final prediction on September 17.
Tantramar - currently PC *incumbent retiring

This riding is interesting in that it seems to be almost American in its favourables to incumbents. It was when the incumbent Tory Lloyd Folkins retired in 1982 that the NDP managed to pick it up. Though the Liberals stole it from an incumbent in their sweep, the widely popular NDPer Bob Hall could not regain it in 1991 and by 1995 the Liberal MLA Marilyn Trenholme Counsel had widened her lead to 46%! In a 1997 by-election however, the Liberal vote slipped from 62% to 33% in what was a three-way race between now retiring Peter Mesheau at 34% to 33 for the Liberals and 30 for the New Democrats. Mesheau managed to dominate here in 1999 and 2003 with 63% and 58% of the vote respectively. History tells us that an open seat here means a tight race. Moved to leans NDP on September 10, then to too close to call on September 13, to leans PC on September 15 and as a PC hold in the final prediction of September 17.
Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe - new district, entirty of territory currently represented by PC

New district which I will need to take a look at which polls from the old district came over of to offer much comment. Changed to leans Liberal on August 29 and to safe Liberal on September 7.
Dieppe Centre-Lewisville - new district, vast majority of territory currently represented by PC

Incumbent from Dieppe-Memramcook Cy LeBlanc is running here. He won in the old riding by only about 100 votes last time and both of the candidates running for the Liberal nomination are strong. I need to look at the polls from the old district to see whether this has taken a predominately Liberal or Tory part of the old riding but, barring this being a gerrymander of some kind it is probably safe to say it will be a Liberal gain. Changed to safe Liberal (from leans Liberal) on September 7.
Moncton East - currently PC

Premier Lord's riding should be interesting indeed. He won by about 10% in 2003 which is not too bad but far less than he did in 1999. In 2003 he faced a little known Chris Collins whose only political experience was running as an NDP sacrificial lamb in 1987. Since that time Collins has been elected to city council and has built himself a good name and a lot of credibility. If Collins runs here again in what was once the most reliable Liberal seat in Moncton, Lord will be in for a fight. If Collins runs and the government changes, Lord is done for sure. Right now it is too close to call. Collins is not running and, as such, changed to leans Tory on August 17, to safe PC on September 9 and back to leans PC on September 13. In the final prediction of September 17 it is marked as a PC hold.
Quispamsis - currently PC

Fowlie only won here by 18 votes in 2003, but some of the closest Tory wins in 1999 became safe ones in 2003. Have people further soured on Fowlie due to her controversies or are they sympathetic towards her? I'll need to investigate before making a call here. Moved to leans Liberal on September 9 and to safe Liberal in the final prediction of September 17.
Rothesay - currently PC

Margaret-Ann Blaney surprisingly left the cabinet earlier this year and in 2003 she was cut down to a narrow margin. Paul Barry looks to be the Liberal candidate here which could spell trouble for Blaney. Moved to leans PC on September 10 and marked as a PC hold in the final prediction of September 17.
Saint John East - currently Liberal

The Tories are a non-factor in this riding and have been since 1984 when they lost it to the NDP in a by-election. The NDP, however, remains strong here and if they have a strong candidate as they did in 2003 they will give Roly MacIntyre a run for his money. Smart Tories here would shift their efforts to the NDP which could upset the popular and effective Liberal critict. For now though, the edge goes to the Liberal. Changed to safe Liberal (from leans Liberal) on September 7.
Saint John Portland - currently PC

The lessons of Saint John Harbour show us that Lord's popularity is sinking in Saint John. Moreover, Trevor Holder will have to personally take the blame for the lack of harbour clean up now that he is environment minister. Holder barely held on in 2003 against then politically inexperienced Colleen Knudson and the rematch could be trouble. What kind of Harbour action plan the Tories release during the campaign and how credible it is will determine the result here. Moved to leans Liberal on September 8 and declared one of ten "ridings to watch" in the final prediction of September 17.
Fundy-River Valley - currently PC *incumbent retiring

This riding, essentially unchanged from the old Grand Bay-Westfield, will requite a closer look from me before I can really comment. Changed to leans Liberal on August 14 and to safe Liberal on September 10.
Charlotte-Campobello - currently PC

Tony Huntjens barely won in 2003 and has since been in and out of cabinet, promised cabinet and then, when that didn't work out, the speakership and then, when that didn't work out who knows. I suspect his credibility is pretty badly damaged. The Liberal nomination is between the Mayor of St. Stephen and the former EA to the Liberal MLA and minister. Depending on which wins the nomination, it will either be a close race or an easy Liberal pick up. Changed to leans Liberal on September 6
Grand Lake-Gagetown - new district, territory currently represented by ~ 70% Liberal, 30% PC

The Grand Lake portion of this riding was won 2 to 1 by Liberal McGinley last time so I am tempted to call this a safe Liberal seat. McCready's father hasn't been on the ballot since 1982 and it was a much different riding (I need to look and see exactly where he represented) so I think McGinley could fend him off. On the other hand, Jack Carr is not only Jody's brother, he is his identical twin. If he wins the nomination, he'll do very well in the Gagetown-area polls and that could make this a close race. Changed to leans Liberal on August 29 and to safe Liberal on September 10.
Fredricton-Nashwaaksis - currently Liberal

Though I think Liberal T.J. Burke should be safe here, Fredericton North (just recently renamed) has not re-elected a member or a party since 1982. I'll take a closer look at this later but for now it is in the watchable column. Moved to leans Liberal on September 8 and to safe Liberal on September 10.
Fredericton-Lincoln - new district, territory currently represented by ~ 60% Liberal, 40% PC

New district, if Greg Byrne is the Liberal candidate as suggested by the media then this is an easy win for the Liberals.
Fredericton-Silverwood - currently PC

Brad Green is in deep trouble here. He only managed 38% of the vote in 2003 despite facing a weak Liberal candidate. With the NDP likely to, at best, hold there vote from '03 (22%) and likely to lose some, it should be winnable for Liberal Anne Bertrand. If the NDP manages to keep their vote high or increase it slightly, Green could narrowly win on a vote split but I don't expect that to happen. I will call this a Liberal gain. Dennis Atchison will be the NDP candidate here and could do very well allowing a vote split. Changed to too close to call on August 17 and then to leans PC on September 6 and back to too close to call on September 10. In the final prediction it was declared, reluctantly, leans NDP and listed as one of ten "ridings to watch" on September 17.
York - currently Liberal *incumbent retiring

York like Fredericton North and Shippigan is notorious for changing parties every election. Coupled with the retiring incumbent, the loss of Liberal-leaning Nackawic from the district and no apparent strong Liberal candidate. I'll call this a Tory gain pending the selection of candidates. Moved to too close to call on September 10 but back to leans PC September 15. Marked as one of ten "ridings to watch" on September 17.
York North - currently PC

Kirk MacDonald won re-election by only about 100 votes last time and has picked up some Liberal-leaning areas from Nackawic. The Tories, under his department though, have done some good work getting the Nackawic mill up and running so I suspect that this will be a Tory hold. Changed to safe PC (from leans PC) on September 7. In the final prediction however, it was marked as leans PC as one of 10 "ridings to watch" on September 17.
Woodstock - currently PC

Hospitals, hospitals, hospitals. Unless the Liberals choose a really bad candidate (which they did in 2003) then this is an easy Liberal pickup. Moved to safe Liberal.
Restigouche-La-Vallée - new district, territory currently represented by ~ 50% PC, 50% Liberals

This will be an interesting battle. Burt Paulin has been a very strong MLA for the Liberals and has climbed the ranks to a senior critic (Natural Resources and Parks) and really seems to know his files and his constituents. Unfortunately for Paulin, Percy Mockler runs his part of the district like a personal fiefdom where opposition is crushed. His electorate will not dare to oppose him, at least not publicly, so it is hard for momentum to build there. In the meantime, Paulin has lost some of his more Liberal polls to the neighbouring Campbellton district. St-Quentin, from Paulin's district, is usually reliable Tory country but may back Paulin over the hospital issue but it will probably not be enough. Another unknown factor is Rodolphe Martin. He ran very successfully federally in 04 and 06 (getting near 30% both times), if he were to run provincially in this tight race he could have an outside chance. I'll need to see if his support was concentrated here (as I suspect it was) and whether or not he will run. In the interim though, I think Mockler will win, making this a Tory hold/gain in this merged district. Changed to leans Liberal on August 29 but back to the original leans PC on September 15. Left in the leaning PC column, it was marked as one of ten "ridings to watch" in the final prediction of September 17.
So from the ridings to watch we have the Liberals with 6 more (5 gains and 1 hold) and the Tories with 5 more (3 gains and 2 holds). This in my mind makes sense because the Tory incumbents are weak, they are going to lose some. Period. Any hope of their being re-elected means they are going to need to pick up 2 or 3 minimum to stay even and then pick up more beyond that to get into safe majority territory.

So the preliminary total is:
Liberal 23
Progressive Conservative 17
To early to say 15

Update (August 14) Lib 24, PC 16, Too close 15
Update (August 15) Lib 25, PC 16, Too close 14
Update (August 17) Lib 24, PC 17, Too close 14
Update (August 29) Lib 27, PC 18, Too close 10
Update (September 5) Lib 28, PC 17, Too close 10
Update (September 6) Lib 29, PC 19, Too close 7
Update (September 8) Lib 29, PC 20, Too close 6
Update (September 9) Lib 30, PC 22, Too close 3
Update (September 10) Lib 29, PC 22, NDP 1, Too close 3
Update (September 13) Lib 29, PC 22, Too close 4
Update (September 15) Lib 30, PC 24, Too close 1
Update (September 17 - FINAL) Lib 30, PC 24, NDP 1, Too close 0

This is preliminary and just off of the cuff with little research. Please don't be too hard on me in the comments section!!!!

Election date set?

I just got this in my inbox:

Please be advised that the Leader of the Official Opposition, Shawn Graham, will be available to the media today, August 10 at 2:00p.m. in the Petitcodiac Room of the Delta Hotel in Moncton to respond to the fixed election date set by the Premier earlier today.
I can't find any news source on this yet but will keep you posted.

UPDATE: CTV is reporting that Lord has announced an election will be held on September 18 but he will not visit the LG to formally call it until next weekend.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I hear Frank McKenna

Shawn Graham told the Telegraph-Journal editorial board yesterday:

I don't want to shock you with what I'm about to say. The fact is, I would love to see our province self-sufficient by 2025, that we're able to stand on our own two feet.

I don't want to stand up as the Premier of New Brunswick and ask for a bigger welfare cheque. I want to stand up and say: 'We want investment today that's going to position our province toward self-sufficiency and here's how we're going to do it.' It's going to tie in to the three pillars.
I am by no means suggesting that Graham is McKenna, but he has clearly borrowed McKenna's pen for that line. That sort of enthusiastic optomism can really strike a chord and I think it is a good strategy.

It looks like Graham is moving with the same strategy as in 2003 - heavy on policy but through a clear focus on three key issues. In 2003 it was public healthcare, public insurance and public power. This time it looks to be the "three Es" (I am surprised no one called it this in any of the coverage): energy, the economy and education.

Although Graham had a major announcement yesterday outlining his energy platform (which I'll summarize below), he gave the TJ a taste of his plans for education:

  • invest in new community college infrastructure

  • create three-year university degree programs to get more students educated faster with lower debt loads

  • reintroduce standardized testing in elementary and secondary schools

  • reduce class sizes

  • do pre-school screening to catch learning disabilities early

  • give students a pedometer to track their daily exercise in an effort to reduce child obesity
To give New Brunswick new direction, he also said he has someone in mind to bring on board to be charged with hiring the best and brightest in the world for the civil service. According to the TJ, "The Liberals will pay 'top dollar' to recruit about a dozen leaders who will take key positions in the civil service and guide the agenda."

Here's a run down on the Liberal energy policy announcement:

  • give New Brunswickers $250 towards energy audits for their homes

  • give homeowners up to $2000 for home retrofits

  • provide lower energy rates for power used during off peak houses

  • boost funding to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency (Weir's Efficiency NB) to allow them an expanded role in promoting conservation and to administer the above programs

  • provide a tax rebate of $1500 for people buying or leasing hybrid vehicles

  • move the department of energy (20 employees) to Saint John and increase its size to work towards making Saint John the energy hub of the northeast

  • give rebates directly to consumers, via the suppliers, for the home heating rebate, without the consumers having to go through an application process

  • mandate NB Power to provide rate increases over a multi-year scale to prevent rate shock

  • expand energy production to become a larger supplier of power to the New England states and other maritime provinces

  • examine the business case for building a natural gas pipeline to northern NB

  • adopt Public Utilities Board recommendations to eliminate the ability to penalize businesses who covert from electric to gas heating

  • pursue a "Maritime Energy Accord" to create a common plan for generation and transmission with NS and PEI

  • re-jig the royalties structure to encourge natural gas exploration in Southeast NB

  • maintain NB Power as a crown corportion with a stronger reporting structure to its shareholders (the voters) through the minister of energy

  • retain the Public Utilities Board or its successor organization as a watchdog
The Liberals say this is fully costed at a whopping $77.1 million PER YEAR! That is pretty hefty considering that this year's projected surplus was only $22 million.

In terms of reaction:

  • the Liberals got a VERY positive editorial from the TJ which bordered on an endorsement

  • Fredericton Mayor (and 1999 Liberal candidate) Brad Woodside blasted Graham for proposing the removal of jobs from Fredericton to Saint John. Graham said there would be no net loss of jobs in Fredericton and he had given Woodside a head's up a few months ago, Woodside said I had no recollection of that

  • Bernard Lord called Graham a "Shawny come lately" saying he has been promoting energy, economy and education and attacked Graham for talking about going from "worst to first" in test results because the Liberals cut education (in the late 1980s... but anyway)

  • Finance Minister Volpe said it was bad policy to move jobs from one city to another
Surprisingly, no one has criticized the cost. Does this mean Lord is planning way-to-big ticket items too?

On the Tory front, Lord was ironically quoted saying he would have a "far broader" platform than Graham criticizing his focus on "three pillars". I find this a bit weak considering that 8 months ago, Lord was running around lauding Harper's five priorities and Harper's priorities were five planks, while Graham's three pillars are three sets of a lot of planks. But I digress. In Moncton, perhaps sensing he is losing ground in his base, Lord "implied" that they would get a heart lab, something he refused to do last year under calls from the hospital and the Liberals. He also announced $29 million for expansion of the Moncton Hospital and $250,000 for infrastructure in Bouctouche. He also unveiled a cultural DVD, funded to the tune of $200,000 by the province and said the province would also buy a copy of the DVD for every French school in the province.

Not to get too partisan but Graham is out announcing ideas and Lord is spreading pork. If this is how the campaign plays out, then it is a good omen for Liberals.

In even more news, the TJ confirms what we've all known with the headline: "If Mesheau steps down, we head to polls: Lord" on the front page in slightly small fon than "FROM WORST TO FIRST" over a large picture of Graham.

The sub-headline of the story shows that we are going to see some mud: "Premier says Graham is weak, Liberal leader retorts Lord has lost control of his caucus" Lord goes on to admit, to a degree, he is calling the election for opportunistic reasons (emphasis added by me):

Lord said confidence about his government's record and a lingering sense Mr. Graham's leadership is being questioned, is influencing his decision to call an election sooner rather than later.

While noting the Liberal party is strong, Lord questioned the strength of its leader.

"I think we have to differentiate the weakness in leadership on the other side with the weakness of the Liberal party," the premier said.
In turn, Graham did respond that it was not he that was weak, "What's clear now is Bernard Lord is running scared. If anyone's having leadership problems within his own caucus it's the premier because he can't keep his caucus intact. That's why there's a speculation of a snap election one year earlier than Bernard Lord wanted, because Peter Mesheau is looking to quit."

Also worth note, keeping to its partisan nature, while the TJ and the Gleaner ran huge spreads on the energy announcement, the Times & Transcript focussed on Lord's hospital and ran a three line CP piece on Graham's energy announcement.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Election day: September 11? September 18!

The Daily Gleaner reports today that Lord is set to meet with Mesheau on Friday and it is expected that an election call will follow that meeting. An election called this Friday or Saturday could be held as early as Monday, September 11.

I can't imagine that the premier would want the election on a date with such eery connations, but, he suggests in the article that he will call it soon after Mesheau resigns ("So we're going to get that out the way because I don't want this situation to go on forever. I want you and everyone else to know whether there will be an election soon or not and if there is, good. Let's get it over with. Let's give a choice to people.") so this seems like a likely date. Lord could call an election on Friday or Saturday and make it a long campaign - 5 or 6 weeks instead of the minimum and standard 4 - but a longer campaign does not allow for higher spending limits so it might be difficult for the parties to remain within the limits in a 5 week campaign. It is worth noting that Tories were just barely under the limit in 2003 with a 4 week campaign.

Other tidbits - both Lord and Graham are in the news talking energy policy. Graham is set to announce a big energy refit rebate program in Saint John today and on alternative energy tomorrow. Lord has finally set up a Provincial Capital Commission (he has named an executive director but no board) as promised in 2003.

UPDATE: CBC reports that Lord will hold off dropping the writ because it "wouldn't be appropriate given the history of" September 11 to go to the polls on that day.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Premier expected to call election"

With apologies to the Times & Transcript, I have used their headline from today's front page ("Premier expected to call election") for this article.

The juices are flowing full throttle. The political scientists, whose ability to call elections I always take with grain of salt, do have some interesting perspectives as we move forward.

Lord is certainly in a favourable position - leading in the polls, has just introduced a "good news" budget and facing a Liberal leader that is, at least perceived as, weak. That said however, he is not in as good of a position today as he was in May 2003 the last time he called an election. At that point the Tories thought they might rack up a McKenna-style landslide and looked to win virtually every seat. Instead, they won the smallest majority possible and had 10 votes flipped against Brenda Fowlie, they might have faced a Liberal minority dropped up by Elizabeth Weir.

Today Lord has a good lead coming out of the gate and you don't need opinion polls to see that. However, I think a lot of his support is soft so he must be careful to run a smart campaign. The Liberals have reassembled the same campaign team that they used in 2003, a campaign team which by all accounts ran a nearly perfect operation. Though Shawn Graham has slipped in the legislature, all agree he outperforms the premier on the hustings at the very least and, if 2003 is to be used as a lesson, he dominates.

This election, I predict, will be as much of a nail biter as in 2003 but the winner will emerge with a more workable majority of perhaps 6 or 7 seats.

The Telegraph-Journal has their races to watch today and, over the next while, I will produce my preliminary races to watch (to be adjusted as candidates emerge) and I'll do some detailed profiles on them as the campaign progresses (assuming that it does).

Here are the TJ's picks (with their thoughts paraphrased, I have a different take on a number of theses; I've added my comments in some places in brackets):
  • The new ridings of Dieppe Centre-Lewisville and Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe will both be prime targets by the Liberals to get a better foothold in greater Moncton
  • Quispamsis where, Brenda Fowlie won by 18 votes in 2003, will be an essential pick up by the Liberals due to the close 2003 race and to Fowlie's tendancy to controversy as minister
  • The Tories will look to regain Saint John East (formerly Saint John Champlain) and Saint John Lancaster which were swiped by the Liberals in 2003
  • The riding of Fundy-River Valley (formerly Grand Bay-Westfield) is open due to the retirement of class of 1995 MLA Milt Sherwood.
  • Brad Green is vunerable in Fredericton-Silverwood and the Liberals are running Ann (sic) Bertrand
  • Fredericton-Lincoln looks to be an all star match up of Allison Brewer vs. Greg Byrne
  • The Tories will look to topple either or both of troublemakers T.J. Burke and Kelly Lamrock in Fredericton-Nashwaaksis and Fredericton-Ft. Nashwaak respectively
  • The five northern ridings where the Liberals won by less than 400 votes
  • Southwest Miramichi where Brent Taylor looks to make a triumphant return
  • York where Liberal incumbent Scott Targett is not reoffering
  • York North where Kirk MacDonald won by only 103 votes
  • Grand Lake-Gagetown (where the Tories used to have a strong hold but did not hold from 1987-1999 and lost 2 to 1 in 2003) where Jack Carr (brother of Jody) and Steve McCready (son of fromer MLA Robert)
  • Charlotte-Campobello where the Liberals think Tony Huntjens is vunerable
  • Tantramar where the incumbent is retiring and where Liberals, Tories and NDPers have won before
That is an interesting list from the TJ but one where I think a lot of the ridings they are talking about are not that vunerable. I'll produce my preliminary list later this week.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Crocodile tears in the blogosphere

From today's Toronto Star:

Finally, there was the mess over his mother-in-law. Was she ill? Or wasn't she? Two weeks ago, the Star sought the views of the 11 leadership hopefuls on the Mideast, asking what they would have done differently than Harper and what, as PM, they would do now.

All commented. Only Ignatieff was unavailable.

When asked why, an Ignatieff spokesperson couldn't answer and said someone would call back later with a reason. Later that day, campaign director Ian Davey telephoned to say Ignatieff's mother-in-law was ill in Hungary.

"He's overseas — there's an illness in the family," said Davey, adding he wouldn't contact Ignatieff about a phone interview. Later, a high-placed source said Ignatieff was definitely on vacation.

Last week, however, back in Toronto, Ignatieff told the Star his mother-in-law was, in fact, not ill.

"There is no health crisis," he said. "There never was. Anybody who said there was, was not authorized to say that. I never purported to say that."

He apologized for the confusion.

So there you have it: the candidate in the awkward position of having to answer for a staffer — and a senior staffer at that.

"I'm entitled to a holiday, but I don't want at any point (to) set up obstacles, or false trails for you or anyone else," he said.
For any of you who read your way around the Liberal blogosphere, you've surely read lots and lots over the past while about the absence of Michael Ignatieff from events, media, etc, etc for most of the month of July. Many have criticized Ignatieff's absence as a rookie mistake and certainly his silence on questions about the Middle East during the crisis in Lebanon was surprising to many. As one blogger pointed out, there are 3.5 million land lines and 8.5 million cell phones in Hungary. Surely the Ignatieff campaign team could have "phoned a friend" when they needed comments.

Any criticism about Ignatieff's absence resulted in vicious retaliation from the Ignatieff folks on the blogosphere. When Calgary Grit posted a picture of Ignatieff on a milk carton and listed a mock top ten reasons for his disappearence for a constest started by another blogger prominent Ignatieff blogger TDH Strategies had the following to say:

Calgary Grit, Mr. "Bart Ramson" (how did you ever come up with that silly name, sir?), has taken it upon himself to make light of a deeply personal affair that Michael Ignatieff and his wife have had to endure in Hungary. In his logic, he believes that the above-linked post isn't "weighing in" on the issue, and that he is somehow going to wait before making his opinion known. Well, excuse me for being a little confused by that kind of a statement, considering that he and his brand of humour seem to be all over the affair.

If that is how CG chooses to conduct himself, then so be it. But regardless of who I support, my ideals will never allow me to make a joke out of someone else's tragedy, particularly when it comes to family. That is a line that I don't think anyone should cross.

Another blogger has written that "Where's Iggy? seems to have replaced Where's Waldo? as one of the more popular past times in the Liberal blogsphere over the past week or two." Well, I'd be more interested in starting another game this morning - namely, Where's Gerard Kennedy Going to Run? It could be in his home province of Ontario...although, he is now living temporarily in Quebec for the summer...but then again, he does have western roots in Manitoba and Alberta...heck, BC might even be an option. We'll all have to keep an eye on the next geographic flavour of the week that Mr. Kennedy chooses to pander to in order to find out. In fact, I'm considering starting a pool:

I'll put a bunch of ridings in the grid (I might have to expand it as the months progress), and TDH readers can puchase different squares for a designated amount. Winner takes all.

And to think of the kind of fun we all could have had if a member of Gerard's family had fallen deathly ill.

Absolutely disgusting.
Full of anger, some might say hate, the response came attacking not only the blogger who made a joke but also saying it was disgusting, and references to family members "fallen deathly ill". Then moving on to attack the leadership candidate supported by the blogger in question.

What a sham. I will quote again candidate Ignatieff who told the Star: "There is no health crisis, there never was. Anybody who said there was, was not authorized to say that. I never purported to say that."

I think TDH Strategies and other bloggers out there who have insulted and called the ethics and morals of other bloggers into questions need to offer some serious apologies. Now.