Pro-gas fracking government turfed in New Brunswick election

Rally at NB Legislature, May 13, 2014 to protect forests, photo by Stephanie Merrill, NB Media Co-Op

The incumbent Conservative Party that made natural gas fracking a centrepiece of its election platform has lost the Sept 22 election in New Brunswick. The new premier is Brian Gallant of the Liberal Party. The election provides an interesting snapshot of popular opinion on major environmental and social issues.

Gas fracking rejected

The Conservatives and Premier David Alward who went down to defeat made continued promotion and financing of natural gas fracking the centrepiece of their election campaign. Gas fracking in the province made national and international headlines last year when police attacked an anti-fracking protest that had disrupted exploratory drilling near the town of Rexton and the traditional Mik’maq territory of Elsibogtog.

The winning Liberals say they will place a moratorium on fracking. The recently elected Liberal Party in Nova Scotia has also declared a fracking moratorium.

The Green Party scored a breakthrough in the election by electing leader David Coon in the district of Fredericton South. The party was the only one to flat-out oppose gas fracking.

The Greens are also the only party to oppose the proposed Energy East crude oil pipeline. That $10 billion project is heavily backed and promoted by the federal Conservative government. It would see Alberta tar sands bitumen piped across Canada to shipping ports on the St. Lawrence River and to the oil industry shipping complex in Saint John, New Brunswick owned by the Irving family empire.

Coon benefited from a multi-party vote split in Fredericton South. He won 30 per cent of the vote, knocking off the energy minister of the incumbent government. He also easily beat out a ‘star’ candidate of the New Democratic Party, Kelly Lamrock, a former education minister of the Liberal Party government who was chosen by NDP leader Dominic Cardy.

Many public education workers who are members of the CUPE union celebrated Lamrock’s election loss because of the education cuts he carried out while a Liberal minister.

Overall in the province, the Greens won 6.6 per cent, up from 4.6 per cent in the 2010 election, while the NDP won 13 per cent, up from 10.4 per cent. The number of voters turning out at the polls increased by only 1,000 compared to the 2010 election; the number of registered voters choosing to vote declined from 71 per cent to 65 per cent.

The election is another electoral setback to the NDP’s efforts to refashion itself in the mold of the Labour Party in Britain. Cardy came second in his Fredericton district, with 30% of the vote. My article in July 2014 on the shift to the right of the NDP across Canada reported briefly on the Cardy-led right shift in New Brunswick, saying:

In New Brunswick, the NDP is undergoing a sharp shift to the right in which two sitting members of the provincial legislature from the Conservative and Liberal parties have been selected by the party leader as candidates in the next provincial election. The president of the NDP district association where the Conservative is to run has quit, saying he wants out of the “Un democratic party.” He says, “I'll be back when the reign of terror is over,” referring to NDP leader Dominic Cardy's sharp right turn.

Cardy has resigned as leader of his party, as has defeated Premier Alward.

Abortion services

Another hotly contested issue in the election was access to abortion services. These are sharply restricted in New Brunswick. The province pays for abortions at two hospitals, but only if a woman gets approval from two doctors who certify the procedure is “medically necessary”.

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