Premier Higgs gets majority in New Brunswick election (while BC Premier Horgan and PM Trudeau are watching?)

Sep 15th, 2020 | By | Category: In Brief
“Premier Blaine Higgs arrives with his wife Marcia to vote in the New Brunswick provincial election in Quispamsis, N.B. on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan).”

UPDATED SEP 21 RE BC ELECTION CALL : Premier Blaine Higgs, Progressive Conservative leader in New Brunswick, called Canada’s “first election during the COVID-19 pandemic,” after the province’s opposition Liberals declined to support a plan that would have allowed his minority government to “stay in power until October 2022 or the end of the pandemic.”

Premier Higgs’s strategy in the election held yesterday (September 14, 2020) was to try for a Progressive Conservative majority in the provincial legislature, that could carry on without help from any other party or parties. It is now clear that the strategy worked.

The Conservatives have won 27 seats in a 49-seat parliament (where a bare majority is 25 seats) with about 39% of the province-wide popular vote.

(The New Brunswick Liberals managed just 17 seats with 34% of the vote. The Greens took 3 seats with 15%, and the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick managed 2 seats with 9% . The provincial NDP won no seats with somewhat less than 2% of the province-side vote.)

“Deep Space” by Toronto artist (and sometime New Brunswick resident) Michael Seward, September 2020.

With somewhat more than three-quarters of a million people, New Brunswick is Canada’s third least populous province, on the Atlantic coast next to Nova Scotia. It nonetheless enjoys distinction as Canada’s only officially bilingual province (as opposed to the officially bilingual institutions of the federal government, coast to coast to coast).

The large francophone minority concentrated in northern New Brunswick – which descends from the ancient French North American colony of Acadia that began in the early 17th century – tends to vote Liberal. The anglophone majority concentrated in the south is much more Conservative. This 2020 election was no exception.

Meanwhile, so far New Brunswick has had only two COVID-19 deaths. Some might say this makes the province a too-easy test for a coronavirus election. But the results did come in promptly this September 14 – which could encourage supporters of a provincial pandemic election in BC next month, and even a Canada-wide federal election sometime this fall.

Lighthouse of Grande Anse on Acadian coastal drive in northern New Brunswick, where visitors are welcomed by Acadian flags.

In both the BC and federal cases as in New Brunswick, there are current minority governments that would also be happy to win legislative majorities in fresh elections. Premier Higgs’s success in doing just that yesterday may encourage similar thoughts elsewhere (even if New Brunswick’s circumstances are rather different from the BC and federal cases).

Whatever finally happens by way of further COVID-19 elections in Canada, it remains increasingly distressing to read such stateside headlines as : “Apocalyptic ‘hellscape’ of San Francisco glows with fire” ; or “Trump has shown blue states don’t have a president …. @GOP insults blue states … If there is not a blue wave, blue America needs to secede.”

Ultimately the September 14, 2020 New Brunswick election may remind some of us up here in We the North just why the late 19th and early 20th century Indigenous Canadian Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson (aka Tekahionwake) long ago advised : “The Dutch may have their Holland, the Spaniard have his Spain / The Yankee to the south of us must south of us remain.”

UPDATE SEP 21. From today’s Global News report : BC’s NDP Premier John “Horgan has asked for the BC Legislature to be dissolved and Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin has accepted his request. Election day will be October 24 – ahead of the next scheduled election on October 2021 … A recent poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests … 48 per cent of decided voters would choose the NDP, 29 per cent would vote Liberal, and 14 per cent would opt for the Greens.” At the same time, some observers think voters might finally punish Horgan’s present NDP (+Green) government for calling a strictly-speaking unnecessary election in the midst of a global pandemic (and smoke from wildfires to the south of us). Premier Horgan and his advisers may think that (except for quite as much smoke from wildfires) the same objections could be raised against New Brunswick Premier Higgs on Canada’s Atlantic coast. And Premier Higgs did win his majority government when the votes were counted. Still others might note that COVID-19 is a bigger local issue in BC than in New Brunswick. It will be very interesting to see just what does happen in Canada’s Pacific Province on October 24.

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