New Brunswick provincial election snooze alert


You might think operative word in this week’s title is “snooze.” But you should take another look. This election is a little different—at least here in the southwest corner of the province.

The first sign is the appearance of four parties on the slate: the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, Green Party and People’s Alliance of New Brunswick. Each of these parties should offer us a different set of options—if we get past our own personal habit of treating politics like religion, you know, the “I was born a (blank) and I’ll die that way” sort of thing.

That kind of belief is, of course, branding and it’s the type of blind loyalty that companies like Coke and McDonalds spend billions of dollars to insert under our thick skulls. Our major political parties invest heavily in their brands and you can see it in their signs: the red and white “Canadian flag” Liberals, and the red, white and blue “true-blue patriotic” Conservatives, and so on. And don’t think that these cheesy efforts to control your emotional mind won’t work—they work extremely well. For more about this, google Edward Bernays who pretty much invented the idea of modern propaganda and also happened—not so coincidentially—to be Sigmund Freud’s nephew. Or for a lighter touch listen to Terry O’Reilly’s ‘Age of Persuasion’ show on CBC Radio.

Back to this election, the CBC News website informs us that “Charlotte-Campobello is shaping up to be one of the best four-party races and is considered to be one of the handful of ridings that could see one of the non-traditional parties winning a seat.”

Before looking at these non-traditionals, let’s review the two traditional parties. First, the Progressive Conservatives. As you know, MLA Tony Huntjens is not rerunning. In a heated contest, Curtis Mallock from Campobello won over St. Andrews’ Mayor John Craig who’s gone over to the new People’s Alliance to stay in the hunt. According to his PC bio, Mallock is a long time Conservative, a political organizer, a volunteer firefighter, a community worker and a fisherman. Mallock is as traditional as his party, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The PC party platform is pretty straight ahead too. They’ll bash the Liberals as hard as they can for the collapsed sale of NB Power to Quebec. And the new PC leader, David Alward, will save us all.

Facing off against Mallock on the Liberal side is Annabelle Juneau. She grew up in a business family and has worked as a real estate agent, Border Services employee, and a tourism business operator before retiring in 2009. She’s also an active community volunteer and “supports an environmentally clean and safe” Charlotte-Campobello. Like Mallock, Juneau is what I would term a ‘safe’ candidate. The incumbent Liberals are offering us more goodies, because they can. Shawn Graham promises to protect existing jobs and create new ones. He’s big on economic development. He wants more doctors for the province, wants to support the farmers, will put $10 million into a new college in Miramichi, and so on. Their slogan? “The Future Matters.” Well, duh.

And now for the upstarts, John Craig and the new People’s Alliance first. Craig’s bio tells us that he’s been Mayor of St. Andrews for the past 9 years, works in a retail grocery store, has been a volunteer firefighter, town councillor, public safety chairman and is a good family man. What is omitted is his role as a strong opponent of LNG development in Passamaquoddy Bay, which would endear him to most of us living around the bay. His main limitation is that he’s been politically St. Andrews-centric. His party is basically a conservative populist entity focused on lowering taxes, cutting government spending and giving the ordinary Jane and Joe a voice in Fredericton. Their communications, led by long time activist Art MacKay, also includes some notions about the use of nuclear waste for power (a good thing, they think) and regional economic development (a good thing, I think).

Not least is Janice Harvey and her Green Party. Unlike the other three, Harvey does not seem to be running a big marketing campaign. That might be too bad, because she stands, in my opinion, heads and shoulders above the other three candidates. Harvey delivers experience and sophisticated level of understanding to the job, and would bring real national connections to this riding. She is a provincially recognized political commentator, an excellent policy analyst and someone who stays in touch with the front lines working for organizations like the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association. As for her party, of which she is the New Brunswick leader, the name “Green” says it all.

So, fellow voters, we have some real choices. We can put on the blinders and vote the way our parents did on election day. Or we can try something different. For me it’s no contest. We can either find the courage to send our best people off to do the job—or keep snoozing along with business as usual, New Brunswick style.

Sticking with a moribund political status quo is not just a local-provincial problem, it's an international problem. Voters everywhere are suffering from a disconnect between their intentions at the ballot box and the actions of their political parties.

We need people who have the courage to find real solutions to mounting global resource problems, and we need those people right now.

If our major party politicians can't—or won't—deliver these solutions, we need to start electing people who can.


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