SACKVILLE, N.B. – Memramcook-Tantramar voters made history Monday night when they opted to send the riding’s first Green Party candidate to the provincial legislature, although by the slightest of margins.
When the final results were in, Megan Mitton took the local seat by a mere 11 votes.
The inside of the Sackville Commons went from hushed silence to elated cheering when Elections New Brunswick released the final vote tally, as supporters helped Mitton celebrate her win.
For well over 30 minutes, Mitton and those around her tensely waited for the results of a final special poll to come in, with the local Green Party candidate leading by 11 votes at that point, as well.
“Wow, that was a stressful few hours,” Mitton said to rounds of applause after the lengthy wait.
Mitton said the win was largely the result of the hard work put in by her and her team on the campaign trail.
“We’ve been working from dawn until dusk and driven all over the riding knocking on doors and putting up signs. I couldn’t have done this without you.”
Mitton said they committed to the campaign because they believe in a better way of doing things in the realm of politics.
“We can improve our health care system, make a difference in education, we can address the climate change challenges we face and think about our children.”
She added she was looking forward to working for all residents in the Memramcook-Tantramar riding.
“My door will be open to every constituent in this riding no matter how they voted, what language they speak.”
Mitton earned a total of 3,148 votes in Monday night’s election, trailed closely by Liberal candidate Bernard LeBlanc with 3,137 votes. Representing the PC party, Etienne Gaudet earned 1,518 votes, while NDP candidate Hélène Boudreau finished with 410 votes.
A recount takes place if a riding is won by 25 votes or less, and, with such a slim margin in Memramcook-Tantramar, LeBlanc said he isn't ready to concede the race just yet.
He said he'll wait for the recount but added he's not completely surprised the race here was such a tight one; he knew the Greens were gaining ground, particularly throughout the last couple weeks of the election.
“I knew it was going to be much closer (than the last election),” said LeBlanc from the Memramcook Valley Golf Course, where he was watching the results with his supporters and members of his campaign team.
Having served as MLA for the former Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe riding for two terms before being elected as MLA for the new Memramcook-Tantramar riding in 2014, LeBlanc said he is proud of his accomplishments to date and had hoped to move forward with a number of other projects for the area, some of which he had been making significant headway on.
“I thought we had worked hard enough in the riding to get the seat but it doesn't seem that is the case,” he said.
LeBlanc said he feels his team ran a good campaign but “obviously people were looking for something new” and credits the Green Party candidate for her well-run campaign.
Mitton’s success Monday night marked a significant improvement over her performance in the 2014 provincial election when she placed third in the riding with 1,178 votes, trailing behind Liberal candidate Bernard LeBlanc with 3,515 votes and PC candidate Michael Olscamp, who earned 2,037. Helene Boudreau placed fourth in the Memramcook-Tantramar riding in 2014 with a total of 972 votes.
Mitton picked up staunch support from several high-profile figures within her party in recent weeks, with federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May and provincial party leader David Coon joining her on the campaign trail in late August and long-time host of The Nature of Things David Suzuki joining her for a special event on the evening of Friday, Sept. 21.
Mitton will be joined in Fredericton by Green Party leader David Coon, who was re-elected in the riding of Fredericton South, and fellow Green candidate Kevin Arsenau, who claimed the riding of Kent South.
Mitton said the success of the Green Party in tonight’s election sends a clear message to Fredericton.
“These results send a strong message to our leaders that we care about democracy, we care about our local economy, we care about our forests, our seniors, our youth and our future.”
At the provincial level, the Progressive Conservatives took 22 seats and the Liberals took 21. The Green Party and the People’s Alliance each claimed three seats.
In order to form a majority government, a party must secure 25 of the 49 available seats. Although the PCs took more seats in Monday night’s election, the Liberals won the most votes overall.
Both Liberal leader Brian Gallant and PC leader Blaine Higgs stated Monday evening they would attempt to form the province’s first minority government in nearly 100 years. Both the PCs and Liberals also indicated they would seek to work with the Green Party and People’s Alliance to form a government.
While the PCs may have won one more seat than the Liberals in Monday evening’s election, Gallant’s party claimed 37.8 per cent of the overall votes, while Higgs’ party claimed 31.9 per cent.
Gallant announced Tuesday morning that New Brunswick Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy Vienneau granted the Liberals permission to continue governing the province. They will, however, have to win the confidence of the legislature if they are to remain in power.
Recounts unlikely to alter election night outcome
If the results of the 2014 provincial election are any indication, recounts – even in ridings where the difference in votes earned by the top two candidates was as close as they were in Memramcook-Tantramar – are unlikely to change the results announced on election night, largely due to the accuracy of the tabulation machines used by Elections NB. In 2014, recounts were granted in seven ridings.
The chief electoral officer's official report following the 2014 provincial election stated: "Following each of the seven recounts, the judges’ declarations confirmed the original seven winning candidates. Out of the seven electoral districts, 11 candidates saw a slight change in their votes (ranging from 1 to 3 votes), while 25 other candidates saw no change."
The report went on to credit the accuracy of the tabulation machines for the minor discrepancies found in the recounts.
"Overall, 51,784 ballots were recounted, nearly 14 per cent of the ballots cast in the general election, reinforcing the fact that the tabulation machines accurately counted the candidates’ votes in the manner in which they were programmed . . .”
The results of recounts for the 2018 provincial election are expected to be announced Oct. 5.