Here is a list of all of the ridings, organized by my level of confidence. I offer a profile for the 15 ridings to watch. I had promised to limit myself to 10 ridings to watch, but I couldn't get myself below 12. I rounded it up to 15 for fun.
I am absolutely, 100% confident of the outcome
Kings East (PC)
New Maryland-Sunbury West (PC)
TOTAL: PC 7, Lib 3.
I am 99% sure of the outcome
Fundy-River Valley (PC)
Grand Falls-Drummond-St. André (Lib)
Saint John Harbour (Lib)
TOTAL: Lib 5, PC 2;
RUNNING TOTAL: PC 9, Lib 8.
I am confident
Dieppe Centre-Lewisville (Lib)
Edmundston-St. Basile (PC)
Moncton North (Lib)
Saint John East (Lib)
Saint John Portland (PC)
Saint John-Fundy (PC)
Southwest Miramichi (PC)
TOTAL: PC 9, Lib 4;
RUNNING TOTAL: PC 18, Lib 12... these numbers I would say are the minimums for both parties and all of the numbers above I think you can take to the bank... an electorate can be unpredictable so I am less certain below.
In my mind I feel confident, but I am somehow uneasy
Campbellton-Restigouche Centre (Lib)
Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak (PC)
Grand Lake-Gagetown (PC)
Miramichi Bay-Neguac (Lib)
Miramichi-Bay du Vin (Lib)
Moncton East (Lib)
York North (PC)
TOTAL: PC 5, Lib 5;
RUNNING TOTAL: PC 23, Lib 17
Toss ups - "nbpolitico's fifteen ridings to watch"
These 15 ridings will be the ones to decide the election and are the ones to watch on election night.
This riding has never gone Conservative since its creation in 1967. Prior to that it was part of the multi-member Gloucester riding which only went Conservative once. Notwithstanding that long Liberal history, it has been one of the closest seats in the province for the past two elections. This election will be the third. In 2003, 2006 and again in 2010 it will be a race between Liberal Brian Kenny and Conservative Nancy McKay. Will Kenny's position as a minister in the government help him? Will McKay's two consecutive losses hurt her? What will be the effect of the NDP which will probably poll between 10 and 20 per cent? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
An opinion poll in the riding of Grand Lake-Gagetown showed People's Alliance leader Kris Austin capturing 23% of the vote. It is not hard to imagine PANB candidate John Craig achieving a similar result. The question is, will that vote come from the Conservatives or the Liberals or from both? Or is his support high enough for him to win himself? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans PC
This is traditionally a Liberal stronghold. The old riding of Charlotte Centre (which makes up most of this riding) was Sheldon Lee's fiefdom from 1978 until it merged with mainland parts of Charlotte-Fundy to make the new riding of Charlotte in 1995. Lee held Charlotte until he retired in 2003. The riding stayed in Liberal hands in 2003, and again under its current name in 2006 when it absorbed the island of Grand Manan into its boundaries. The Liberals won the seat fairly comfortably in 2006. The Tories, however, enjoy a 19 point lead in southern and central New Brunswick in the most recent poll. Other polls straight back to the beginning of the campaign show them with a double digit lead in those regions. And that lead is likely amplified in rural ridings, especially those with a large number of NB Power employees (Point Lepreau is in this riding). Will the long tradition of voting Liberal save this riding from a Tory surge? Will the NB Power issue hurt the Liberals here as it appears to be in neighbouring Fundy-River Valley? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
Generally a reliable Liberal seat, it went Conservative in 1999 and part of what is now this riding also went Conservative in 1974. In 2006, Liberal Donald Arseneault won by an astounding 3,500 votes. Since the last election, two of Dalhousie's three major employers have closed and the last will close within a few months. Since this spring, Donald Arseneault has been deputy premier and in that role has served as the Liberal's principal attack dog against the Conservatives. Will Donald Arseneault's senior role in the cabinet help him? Will his role as an attack dog hurt him? Will voters blame the economic collapse of the riding on Arseneault? And are any negatives enough to wipe out a 3,500 vote margin? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
This was a new riding in 2006, taking large parts of the relatively new riding of Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak (created in 1995) and New Maryland. It is hard to judge its history. Greg Byrne returned to politics after a 7 year absence by running here in 2006 and winning convincingly. In that election, the NDP leader Allison Brewer also ran here taking over 1,000 votes. Over the past year Byrne has served as both finance minister and government house leader making him the face of the government on a large swath of issues. Will the NDP hold its vote or grow it? If the NDP vote slips will it go to Byrne or Conservative Craig Leonard? Will Byrne's role as face of the government on many difficult files hurt him? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
Of the Fredericton ridings, this is probably the safest for the Liberals. It has the weakest Conservative candidate and it is the most urban. The riding has changed a lot over the years and the continued growth of Fredericton has caused it to split several times. It lost almost half of itself to Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak (now Fredericton-Lincoln) in 1995 and another smaller chunk in 2006 to Fredericton-Lincoln. It was the only Fredericton proper seat to vote Conservative in 2003, but thanks to a high NDP vote, the Conservatives won with only 41% of the vote that year. Will the NDP return to its previous tradition of getting in the high teens or low twenties or even higher? If so, does that NDP vote come at the expense of the Liberals or the Conservatives? Will a relatively weak Conservative candidate thwart the Tory tide that is surrounding the riding? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
This riding has been among the best for the Tories in terms of francophone seats not in Madawaska county. It went blue in 1974 (its first election) and 1982. It was held by outgoing premier Camille Thériault (just barely) in 1999, and then returned to Tory hands in a 2001 by-election where it has remained ever since. But with polls showing the Liberals doing very well in a) southeastern New Brunswick, and b) among francophones, this could be the best chance the Liberals have had in quite sometime to snatch it back. Is it possible for Claude Williams to be beaten even with the above factors on the Liberals' side? Is the Liberal lead in the southeast really as big as the polls suggest? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans PC
This riding has gone Conservative twice before - in 1999 when the Tories swept the Miramichi region and in 1982. In 1991, the riding was a three-way split between the Liberals (who won), the Conservatives and the populist-right wing Confederation of Regions party. The Telegraph-Journal polled this riding and showed a result within the margin of error of PC 46 to Liberal 43. Will the downturn of the Miramichi economy hurt Liberal John Foran? Will his history working for the popular MP Tilly Gordon help Conservative Robert Trevors? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans PC
This riding was created out of the Tory stronghold of Petitcodiac in 1995 and has been has been strong every cycle for Conservative John Betts since he ran in 1999. The strong showing for the Liberals in Greater Moncton shows this seat going handily for the Liberals based on the uniform swing however, and the Liberals are running a stronger candidate than last time around. Does the big Tory drop in Greater Moncton impact the anglophone ridings to Moncton's West or just he francophone ridings to its east? Will the Liberal investments in Atlantic Baptist University translate into votes for the Grits? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans PC
From its creation in 1974 to the Liberal sweep of 1987, this riding was in Conservative hands and in 1978 and 1982 the race wasn't even close. It was recaptured by the Tories in their sweep of 1999. They held the seat in 2003 and 2006, but by margins of less than 500 votes. Since the last election, Conservative Joan MacAlpine-Stiles crossed the floor to the Liberals, but she isn't re-offering. The two principal candidates are both big local names: Liberal Anne-Marie Picone Ford is co-owner of Ford's Apothecary and anyone that has ever listened to the radio in Moncton has heard her voice its ads. Conservative Sue Stultz is better known as "the turkey lady" having run for many years a major turkey drive for needy families. Will MacAlpine-Stiles' party switching hurt or help the Liberals? Will two well known women nullify the effects of the provincial campaign in this riding? And if so, is that good for the Liberals - down in the province-wide polls, or good for the Tories - behind the Liberals in the Moncton region? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
This has traditionally been a Liberal riding, having only gone for the Conservatives in the sweep of 1999. However, the Liberals won it by only 400 votes in 2006. The NDP are strong here, having received one of their best ever results in 1999 when Gilles Halley got 28% of the vote. The battle in this riding is likely principally between the NDP and the Liberals but the Conservatives could easily sneak up the middle in such a race. Will the NDP's Pierre Cyr be able to meet or exceed Halley's 28%? Will a strong NDP vote come at the expense of the Liberals or the Conservatives? Does Liberal Cheryl Lavoie's last minute addition to cabinet help her or hurt her? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
Tantramar has behaved almost like an American congressional district in its history. It re-elects incumbents but when an incumbent retires it is a close race. The NDP won the riding in 1982 by just 450 votes upon the retirement of Conservative Lloyd Falkins. Marilyn Trenholme won big majorities in 1987, 1991 and 1995 but after she retired Conservative Peter Mesheau won by only 39 votes in a 1997 by-election. Mesheau was re-elected by huge margins in 1999 and 2003. Conservative Mike Olscamp broke the trend somewhat when he won his first term by over 1,000 votes. However, I've heard from a number of sources that both the Liberal and NDP campaigns are much stronger this time around. Will history be on Mike Olscamp's side and the incumbency give him a huge boost? Will the riding return to its NDP tradition when it got over 30% of the vote in 1978, 1982, 1987 and 1997, and finished second in 1999? Does the large Liberal lead in southeastern New Brunswick extend into this riding? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans PC
The NDP have put on a big push in this riding held by the Conservatives since 1994. Conservative Claude Landry seeks a second term, while the Liberals hope to regain a riding they held from its creation in 1974 until Landry's former boss won it in a 1994 by-election. NDP leader Roger Duguay's decision to run here raised a lot of eyebrows, he had previously run in Caraquet, Centre-Péninsule and Miramichi Bay-Neguac - all of which would be considered better prospects for the NDP. Notwithstanding long odds, Duguay has a number of political professionals working full-time to help win the riding, he has spent almost all of his time there and polls show the NDP riding high in northern and francophone New Brunswick. Will the NDP be able to make a breakthrough here? Will Claude Landry be able to continue to maintain the strong support former Conservative MLA Elvy Robichaud enjoyed here? Will the Liberals be able to sneak up the middle in what is largely a Conservative-NDP battle? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans NDP
Saint John Lancaster
This riding was created out of parts of Saint John West (a Conservative stronghold) and Saint John Harbour (a Liberal stronghold). It went Liberal in 1995, 2003 and 2006, while it went Conservative in 1999. Abel LeBlanc is very popular in the poorer, harbour parts of the riding, while the Conservatives enjoy more support in the middle class residential neighbourhoods of the west side. Will the Conservative surge in southern New Brunswick reach into the city of Saint John? Has Abel LeBlanc's salt-of-the-earth approach outstayed its welcome? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
This riding was traditionally a Conservative stronghold. Then in 1987, the Liberals won every seat in the province. The Tories expected to regain the seat in 1991 but were foiled by a vote-split with the Confederation of Regions Party who took 1,580 votes to the Conservatives' 1,664. In 1995, they tried again and lost by only 7 votes while COR took 600. After that, Liberal Larry Kennedy had become well entrenched and against poor Conservative candidates Kennedy won by more comfortable margins in 1999 and 2003. In 2004, the Conservative government's health plan promised to close both hospitals in the riding, which led Kennedy to win the highest share of the vote of any Liberal in the province. The Conservatives have been doing very well in rural, anglophone New Brunswick according to polling and anecdotal evidence. And David Alward is from a nearby riding with shared media coverage. Will voters have forgotten the hospital issue? Will the riding return to its traditional conservative orientation? And even if it does, will Kennedy's long tenure allow him to hold on anyway? These are not easy questions to answer, so that makes this a riding to watch. Leans Liberal
FINAL PREDICTION: PC 28, Lib 26, NDP 1.
After massive blowouts in elections from 1982 through 1999, this looks like it will be the third consecutive close election, returning New Brunswick to its traditional electoral orientation. That said, the Conservatives certainly have the edge with 50% more safe seats than the Liberals and with 28 seats in the final prediction. With no polling in the past week, it is hard to say whether the trend of the election getting closer has continued, or if the Tory lead has expanded back to 10+ points.
Were the Tories to sweep the "ridings to watch" the result would be PC 38, Liberal 17.
If the Liberals have retaken the lead and were to sweep the "ridings to watch" the result would be Liberal 32, PC 23. That is almost exactly the same as the current standings but it would be a very different legislature with the Liberals losing 7 of the seats they currently hold, including three cabinet ministers.
The NDP is in play in somewhere between 2 and 4 ridings (Tracadie-Sheila, Nepisiguit, Bathurst and Tantramar) according to my analysis. They may also be in play in Saint John Harbour, Saint John East and Fredericton-Silverwood, though my analysis says no.
The People's Alliance is in play in probably two ridings - Grand Lake-Gagetown and Charlotte-Campobello. They should also finish respectably (over 10 per cent) in York North and Southwest Miramichi. Under my analysis they have only one (long) shot at a seat and that is in Charlotte-Campobello.
I do not see the Greens in play anywhere, but I expect to see them get respectable (high single-digit to low double-digit) showings in Fredericton-Nashwaaksis, Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak, Petitcodiac, Tantramar and possibly Charlotte-Campobello.
A divided New Brunswick: What a Liberal win would look like
While the odds favour a Conservative victory, a Liberal win is not out of the realm of possibility. But the result would make for a very unusual map. The Conservatives will win the majority of the geography of New Brunswick concentrated in the central, western and southern parts of the province.
The Liberal path to victory is one where they use their lead in southeastern New Brunswick to do a near sweep of that region and hold all or most of their seats in northern New Brunswick to counterbalance the sure gains for the Conservatives in the larger anglophone regions in and around Saint John, Fredericton and Miramichi.
The map to your right is not the most likely scenario for a Liberal win, but it is not impossible to imagine this map which shows the most extreme version of what a divided province yielding a Liberal win would look like. In this scenario, the Liberals are held solely to seats on the Northumberland and Chaleur coasts with a few seats in Greater Saint John, Fredericton and Victoria County.
And before I leave, here is some fun with numbers. I've taken a number of somewhat absurd "surge" scenarios for various parties of varying degrees of unlikelihood to get these possible results:
Liberal vote completely collapses:
PC 44, Liberal 11
Liberal vote collapses to minor parties:
PC 37, NDP 7, Lib 6, PANB 4, Ind 1
Tory vote completely collapses:
Liberal 44, PC 11
Tory vote collapses to minor parties:
Lib 39, PC 8, NDP 5, PANB 3
Tory vote collapses to minor parties, but in English New Brunswick it goes only to Greens and PANB:
Lib 37, PC 8, NDP 4, Green 3, PANB 3
NDP surge at expense of both major parties:
PC 23, Lib 22, NDP 10
NDP surge at expense of PCs:
Lib 39, PC 12, NDP 4
NDP surge at expense of Liberals:
PC 38, NDP 11, Lib 6
Green surge at expense of both parties:
PC 27, Lib 23, Green 4, NDP 1
PANB surge at expense of both parties:
PC 25, Lib 24, PANB 4, NDP 1, Ind 1
Assuming that this analysis is correct, then the NDP have made a fairly major strategic error. Had they focused their campaign on Liberal voters (i.e. this is the change you can trust, a rational, progressive alternative to these two conservative parties) as opposed to a focus on disconnected and disillusioned voters from both parties they would be in a position to do much better.