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‘Retail politics’ dominate ‘slow’ N.B. election at campaign midpoint: political scientist - New Brunswick

The New Brunswick provincial election campaign has reached the halfway point with a lack of big-ticket promises. There’s been more of a focus on promising to commit to action items or policy changes.

“It’s been slow,” says University of New Brunswick political scientist Donald Wright. “Not a lot of excitement.”

University of New Brunswick political scientist Donald Wright says the provincial election campaign has been slow so far with more of a focus on ‘retail politics’

University of New Brunswick political scientist Donald Wright says the provincial election campaign has been slow so far with more of a focus on ‘retail politics’.

Source: University of New Brunswick Facebook page

“It’s a lot of retail politics,” he explains in an interview with Global News. “Attract more nurses, extend the vehicle registration. That’s kind of small-scale retail politics.”

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Week 2 commitments

This past week, affordable housing and health care were two topics of discussion on the campaign trail.

If re-elected, Blaine Higgs, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, announced his party would continue with its already-budgeted financial commitment and hire more extra-mural liaison nurses.

“In the budget our government passed earlier this spring, our government increased spending in health care … We allocated more than 2.9 billion for health care overall.”

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The PC leader also focused on an RCMP drug task force, land conservation and affordable housing.

During a stop in Moncton, Kevin Vickers, the Liberal leader, focused on people living without a home.

“We will move immediately to build badly needed affordable housing in our province,” he said.

The Liberals also discussed improvements to cybersecurity, a promise to renegotiate a contract with nurses, and population growth.

Kris Austin, the leader of the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick, focused on affordable housing Saturday.

Among other issues this past week, Austin discussed virtual care, job creation, and the New Brunswick Home Energy Assistance Program.

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“The People’s Alliance is committing in this election campaign to increase that home energy assistance from $100 to $250,” he said Thursday.

Meanwhile among the subjects on David Coon and the Green Party’s mind were senior care, health care, and relationships with First Nations communities.

Coon also focused on heavy industry and taxes.

“As a Green government, we would amend the New Brunswick Assessment Act to eliminate that loophole that allows heavy industry to be treated in this fashion while everyone else does not have this sweet deal,” he told reporters.

And on Wednesday, the NDP unveiled its candidates and part of the party’s platform under interim leader Mackenzie Thomason.

“The NDP will pursue with all of our collective strength an inquiry into the recent deaths of two First Nations community members,” he said.

Thomason also discussed tuition fees, a proposed $15 an hour minimum wage, and tax increases for some of the highest earners.

Voter turnout

Wright says he’s concerned about voter participation for several reasons.

“We’ve seen that number decline precipitously over the years and decades,” he says. “I really hope that people do exercise their democratic right, do their homework, learn who the candidates are in their respective ridings, and go out and vote.”

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Read more:
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Aside from a slow campaign so far, the snap election call during COVID-19 could be a disengaging factor, along with students preparing to return to the classroom.

But Wright says parties should’ve been better prepared for the election due to the minority government New Brunswick had before dissolution.

“Parties have pretty bad websites, pretty bad social media presence, pretty weak Facebook presence, Twitter presence,” he says. “And the question is, why?”

But, he says COVID-19 has created a unique opportunity to re-think the basics of the role of a provincial government.

“How are we going to govern ourselves? What are our transportation systems going to look like? What are our food systems going to look like? What’s our higher-education system going to look like?” he asks. “The parties have to begin to think about that and get out of retail politics.”

‘Vote early and vote safely’

Elections New Brunswick is asking voters to help “flatten the election curve.”

Officials are asking people to take advantage of advanced polls on Sept. 5 and Sept. 8, or casting ballots by mail.

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“By voting earlier, electors can do their part to reduce the number of people who show up during traditional peak voting times,” chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth said in a news release Thursday.

On election day Sept. 14, polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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