A new Corporate Research Associates (CRA) March poll shows surging support for the NDP in the province. The poll, taken from February 7 to March 1 this year, is the first public opinion survey since Dominic Cardy resigned as NDP leader on January 1, and then promptly joined the Progressive Conservatives (PC).
NDP Interim Leader Rosaire L’Italien says the CRA poll shows that many NDP members and supporters who were dissatisfied with Cardy voted for the Green Party in 2014, and are “coming back home to the NDP” now that Cardy is gone. He dismisses Cardy’s tenure as NDP leader as a “failed experiment” in moving the NDP to the political right, and says the NDP can now “get back to its true social democratic values.”
This poll lends credence to L’Italien’s analysis. Compared with the previous CRA poll in November 2016, the March 2017 poll shows a nearly doubling of NDP support, from 7% to 12%, coming hard on the heels of Cardy’s departure while, at the same time, support for the New Brunswick Green Party declined sharply from 9% to 5%. The results of the CRA poll are accurate to within plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The poll also shows that the NDP has fully recovered from a slump in support that saw it sink to 7% as recently as last November, and be eclipsed by support for the Green Party that peaked at 9%. At stake is whether voters seeking change will see the NDP or the Green Party as the alternative to the Irving-dominated Liberal and Conservative parties in next year’s provincial election.
According to the CRA, among “decided voters,” Premier Brian Gallant and his Liberal government now have the support of 51% of decided voters, down 2% from November 2016, while support for the Conservatives and their new leader Blaine Higgs remained stagnant at 30%. Meanwhile, 31% of the electorate remains “undecided.”
L’Italien says the NDP is continuing to pick up steam as it refocuses on issues like “good jobs, fair wages and a social safety net that protects everyone.” He sees “a real hunger for change in New Brunswick,” and states that, while the NDP’s internal rebuild has only just begun, “we are seeing a big increase in people signing up and getting involved.”
L’Italien says many of the people returning to the NDP are working people who traditionally supported the NDP, but rejected Cardy’s attempts to move the party to the right. Those voters, he says, are now returning to the NDP because the party is once again seeking a better deal for working people, including improved labour standards and good jobs.
L’Italien is also hopeful that the next NDP leader will be “a new kind of politician who works for people and not the corporate sector.” He says that while corporations do create many jobs, government job creation efforts in New Brunswick has too often concentrated on the welfare of the corporate sector at the expense of a fair deal for people.
The NDP has not yet set a date for selecting its next leader. The selection of a new leader may well determine whether the NDP continues gaining momentum in the months ahead.
L’Italien is enthusiastic about the NDP’s preparations in individual ridings for next year’s election. “We’re working the whole field, and we’ll have an active group working in each of the province’s 49 ridings,” he says, adding that disgruntled Liberals and Conservatives are also joining the party.
The Green Party, meanwhile, reports the establishment of two new riding associations, the restructuring of 13 others, and a significant increase in fund-raising. The election of Green Party leader David Coon in 2014 gave the party its first ever elected member in the provincial legislature, and made Greens a visible presence on New Brunswick’s political stage.
Hampering the Green Party is the fact that it does not have the established network of “on the ground” contacts and active riding associations that the NDP has developed over the years. The Greens began the process of nominating candidates for 2018 with the nomination of David Coon on February 2, while the NDP will wait until its new leader is in place before beginning its candidate nomination process.
The issue of forestry may well determine whether it is the Green Party or NDP that will be perceived as the party of change in 2018. Banning both clearcutting and the spraying of cancer-causing glyphosates are twin pillars of the Green Party’s promise of a Forests Sustainability Act. Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have allowed ever more clearcutting, and that short-sighted policy is seeing New Brunswick forests, along with their wildlife, wiped out and replaced with “tree plantations.”
The NDP talks about “strong regulatory oversight,” and is only willing to promise an “independent scientific agency” to oversee forest management. That policy may be seen by environmentalists and others as an attempt to dodge taking a stand on the twin issues of clearcutting and spraying.
The Green Party has already presented petitions in the provincial legislature with 28,000 signatures from people demanding an end to the spraying of forests with dangerous glyphosates. It will continue to champion forest management that is focused on sustainable, long-term job creation.
Experience and scientific research show that clear-cutting kills jobs in the long run, reduces and pollutes sources of fresh water, makes climate change worse, and robs future generations of their heritage. Making a scandalous situation even worse, areas that have been clearcut are sprayed with glyphosates to prevent natural forest from re-growing.
The World Health Organization reports that glyphosate is a chromosome disrupters, damages DNA, and likely causes cancer.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Monsanto and the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conspired to suppress evidence that glyphosates cause cancer. Those revelations effectively destroyed the last shred of credibility of claims by the Gallant government that forest spraying is “safe.”
Opposition to clearcutting and spraying forests with dangerous glyphosates is increasing. Whether the Greens or the NDP be seen as the party of change in next year’s provincial election may well hinge on which party offers the more credible alternative to current forest management plans which amount to little more than a bargain basement clearance sale of New Brunswick’s natural heritage.
Dallas McQuarrie writes for the NB Media Co-op from Kent County.