An election has been called in New Brunswick for September 18. Although the government faced a precarious situation in the legislature and the possible loss of a seat in a by-election, the more likely explanation for why now, a year ahead of the government’s four year mark, can be found in increasingly favourable polls.
Premier Bernard Lord’s PC party likely received the same message from private polls conducted over the summer as they did from this one released by Corporate Research Associates in June. It puts the PCs ahead of the Liberals 45-39 with just 9 per cent for the NDP. These numbers would produce a legislature split 35-20 for the PCs over the Liberals with the NDP, which lost its only seat in a by-election following the resignation of former leader Elizabeth Weir, getting nothing.
Although the government’s lead looks narrow, other details in the poll including the trends on government satisfaction and preferred leader make it clear that the NB Tories are in a strong position.
The most interesting aspect of the election is that it appears set to restore the political reputation of Premier Lord, damaged badly by his near defeat in 2003. That is important because he remains a potential national Conservative leader. This might seem remote with the Harperites enjoying power in Ottawa, but they do have a minority and their accident-prone summer suggests they may not be there forever, the weak Liberal leadership field notwithstanding. There are some hazards for Lord in the coming campaign from issues such as gasoline prices, but he has probably learned his lesson about underestimating the potential of such concerns from the 2003 campaign when ignoring rapidly rising auto insurance rates almost led to this defeat.