2003 New Brunswick General Election

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Jun 1, 2003

When New Brunswick voters went to the polls on June 9, 2003, they sent a strong message to Premier Bernard Lord’s Progressive Conservative government. Prior to the election, the Progressive Conservative Party held a commanding legislative majority with 47 of 55 seats, and were riding high in public opinion. Following the election, the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to just 28 seats, with the Liberal Party a close second at 26 seats. This article provides an overview of the history, issues, party leaders and platforms, and results of the 2003 New Brunswick provincial election.

Nova Scotia Electoral Backgrounder

Previous election results

2003 New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Party

Leader and key policies of the Progressive Conservative Party

2003 New Brunswick Liberal Party

Leader and key policies of the Liberal Party

2003 New Brunswick New Democratic Party

Leader and key policies of the New Democratic Party

2003 New Brunswick Election Results

Progressive Conservatives win a majority government

Links for More Information

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Nova Scotia Electoral Backgrounder

Previous provnicial election results

1999 General Election Results

The last general election was held in 1999. In that election, the Progressive Conservative Party — under Bernard Lord — soundly defeated the incumbent Liberal Party and formed a majority government with 44 of 55 total seats in the Legislature and 53.0 percent of the popular vote. Below is a summary of the 1999 general election results.

Party

Seats

Popular Vote

Standing

PC

44

53.0%

Majority Government

LIB

10

37.3%

Official Opposition

NDP

1

8.8%

 

Other

0

0.9%

 

Total

55

 

 

Source: New Brunswick 1999 Election Information

Provincial By-Elections (1999-2003)

Between the general elections of 1999 and 2003, New Brunswick held three provincial by-elections in the districts of Campbellton, Caraquet, and Kent South. The Progressive Conservative Party won all three, increasing their seats in the legislature from 44 to 47.


2003 New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Party

Leader and key policies of the Progressive Conservative Party

Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party

Bernard Lord was born in 1965 and grew up in the Greater Monition, New Brunswick area. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science with a major in economics, and a law degree from the Université de Moncton. In 1997, he was elected leader of the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Party. In 1998, he was elected to the New Brunswick legislature and became leader of the Official Opposition. In 1999, the Progressive Conservatives won a majority and Mr. Lord became premier. Mr. Lord is married to Diane Hache, and they have two children.

Progressive Conservative Party Platform

  • Auto insurance: Protect auto insurance consumers by preventing companies from dropping drivers without good reason, placing caps on some personal injury claims, forcing companies to justify rate increases of more than three percent to the Public Utilities Board, and give the PUB the power to investigate companies whose rates appear unfair.
  • Economic development: Create a competitive business environment through lower taxes, government fiscal responsibility, and less government red tape and regulation.
  • Taxation: Maintain the province’s competitive tax structure, including a five percent reduction in personal income taxes, one percent reduction in income tax for small business, and a promise to avoid increasing gas taxes over the next mandate.
  • Government finances: A commitment to continue balancing the budget and reducing the public debt.
  • Health care: A health care program that includes increased funding to sustain New Brunswick’s health care system, improved access to 24/7 primary health care services, recruit more doctors, nurses and health care professionals, and ensure more accountability to patients and taxpayers. Also have a seniors’ program that includes rebuilding or renovating 10 nursing homes, and add $15 million to prescription drug program.
  • Other policies: Encourage democratic reform by establishing a Commission on Legislative Democracy and introducing a New Brunswick Referendum Act to allow the public to decide important public policy issues through binding referendums.

2003 New Brunswick Liberal Party

Leader and key policies of the Liberal Party

Leader of the Liberal Party

Shawn Graham was born in 1968 in Kent County, New Brunswick. He holds a Bachelor of Physical Education Degree from the University of New Brunswick and a Bachelor of Education Degree from St. Thomas University. He also attended the Université Canadienne in France for a year of immersion studies. Prior to entering politics, Mr. Graham served in the provincial civil service as Manager of Industrial Development, and as an executive assistant to the Natural Resources and Energy Minister. Mr. Graham was first elected to the provincial legislature in 1998, representing the riding of Kent. On May 11, 2002, he was elected Leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick and Leader of the Official Opposition. Mr. Graham lives with his wife in Mundleville, NB.

Liberal Party Platform

  • Auto insurance: Reduce and control auto insurance premiums with tough new legislation.
  • Health care: Have less private sector participation in health services. Also introduce a seniors’ health care policy that includes creating a long-term care strategy, increasing the Low Income Seniors Benefit, and raising the ceiling for income eligibility for seniors benefiting from a prescription drug program.
  • Other policies: Reduce class sizes for younger students, and retain New Brunswick Power, the provincial power utility, as a crown corporation.

2003 New Brunswick New Democratic Party

Leader and key policies of the New Democratic Party

Leader of the New Democratic Party

In 1948, Elizabeth Weir was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Ms. Weir is married to James Stanley and together they have one daughter. She received her honours degree in Sociology from the University of Waterloo and a law degree from the University of Western Ontario. In 1978, she was admitted to the Law Society of Upper Canada. Ms. Weir is a former teacher at the University of New Brunswick. She was first elected leader of the New Democratic Party in 1988, and was elected to the provincial legislature in 1991. She was reelected in 1995, 1999 and 2003. In the 1999 and 2003 general elections, Ms. Weir was the only NDP candidate elected. She has sat as member of the Legislative Administration Committee, the Law Amendments Committee, Crown Corporations Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, and has been a member of the Select Committees on Education, Health, Local Governance and Regional Collaboration, and Private Passenger Automobile Insurance.

Platform of the New Democratic Party

  • Auto insurance: A public insurance plan would operate as a financially self-sufficient agency, offer compulsory, universal insurance, and pursue safety and accident-prevention programmes.
  • Economic development: Environment-friendly economic development. This includes an Energy Conservation Investment Fund to encourage energy efficiency, stimulate relevant industries and promote expansion of the Internet technology industry.
  • Taxation: A decrease in the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on the essentials of life.
  • Health care: A Medicare Protection Act that strengthens Medicare principles, holds governments accountable for its full implementation, and prohibits “for profit” providers of services. Other health policies include a public drug plan for seniors, maintaining services in rural communities and addressing the nursing shortage.
  • Other policies: Relief for students with loans, broad and flexible support to universities, and tougher regulations regarding political party financing.

2003 New Brunswick Election Results

Progressive Conservatives win a majority government

2003 General Election Results

The Progressive Conservatives under Bernard Lord narrowly maintained a majority government. Their seat total dropped from 44 in the 1999 general election to 28 in 2003. The seat total of the Liberal Party increased from 10 in 1999 to 26 in 2003. The NDP maintained its single seat.

There was also a swing in the popular vote, with the Progressive Conservatives falling from 53 percent in 1999 to 45.5 percent in 2003. The Liberal Party increased from 37.3 percent to 44.3 percent. The NDP showed a marginal increase in the popular vote. Also noteworthy is the fact that four PC cabinet ministers were defeated: Norm Betts (Business New Brunswick), Kim Jardine (Environment and Local Government), Norm McFarlane (Labour), and Rodney Weston (Agriculture and Aquaculture).

A summary of the 2003 general election results is as follows:

Party

Seats

Popular Vote

Standing

PC

28

45.45%

Majority Government

LIB

26

44.34%

Official Opposition

NDP

1

9.69%

 

Other

0

0.53%

 

Total

55

 

 

Extremely Close Election Result

This election was supposed to be a relatively easy win for Bernard Lord’s Progressive Conservative Party. Prior to the election, the PCs held a huge majority in provincial legislature and were high in public polls. However, following the election, the PCs clung to a one-seat majority. Shawn Graham’s Liberal Party made a strong drive, nearly upsetting the ruling PCs. The Liberals surged in large part on the issue of skyrocketing auto insurance and the PC Party’s inability to solve the problem.

The close election result leaves the PC government in a precarious position. While it has a majority government, it is a narrow one. The government must maintain absolute party discipline to govern effectively. If any PC members were to vote against a government bill, it may fail. Furthermore, the election result has given the PC government a wake-up call and the future of the PC party will depend on Premier Lord’s ability to adapt to shifting public sentiment. Indeed, following the election, he stated, “To the people of New Brunswick, I hear your message. I can see clearly the challenges and I accept the mandate.”


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