Liberals held dominant lead at start of New Brunswick campaign

In this photo, displayed at federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s Flickr feed, Brian Gallant addresses a rally in Fredericton. A new poll from Forum Research says Gallant stands a good chance of being New Brunswick’s premier.
Click here to see more photos of Trudeau’s visit to Gallant’s rally in Fredericton.

Brian Gallant’s New Brunswick Liberal Party held a commanding lead over incumbent Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward as the province’s 38th general election opened,  the first public domain poll of the campaign concludes.

The poll, done by Toronto-based Forum Research  and released Saturday, said Gallant’s Liberals had the support of 46% of voters compared to Alward’s PCs at 31%. The New Brunswick NDP, led by Dominic Cardy, was at 15% while the New Brunswick Greens led by David Coon were at 7%.

Ominously for Alward, Forum found that 65% of respondents agreed with the statement that the government has outlived its usefulness and needs to be replaced. Alward won a majority government in 2010, knocking off the Liberals, then led by Shawn Graham.

“Honestly, polls are a portrait of the past and not a prediction of the future,” Gallant told reporters in St. George, NB Saturday. “There’s a big three weeks and a half in the campaign. We’re very aware of that. We need to reach out to as many New Brunswickers as possible. We’re not going to put much stock in the polls in the middle of the campaign.”

The automated telephone poll of 932 New Brunswickers was done on Aug. 25, three days after the campaign officially started. New Brunswickers will go to the polls on Sept. 22. Forum said its poll was accurate to within three per cent, 19 times out of 20. [Click here to review Forum’s release and data]

WATCH: Campaign ad from the New Brunswick Liberals:

Alward has staked his campaign on a strong endorsement of developing shale gas resources through fracking. Both Gallant and Cardy oppose fracking.

Forum found that one-half of voters agreed with the statement that the Energy East pipeline is the key to New Brunswick’s future. Both the Liberals and the PCs support the development of this pipeline which would take western crude from Hardisty, AB to refineries in Saint John.

The proposed Energy East pipeline route.

Forum said that 52% of voters listed jobs and employment top as the issue most important to them, easily topping the list of issues at the centre of the campaigns. New Brunswick’s unemployment rate is currently high at 10.2% and, over the four years since Alward was elected, the province’s work force has shrank and there are fewer jobs — despite a slight risen the population.

Forum was not commissioned by any media organization, political party or other outside group to do this poll. Forum’s poll is the first and only public domain poll of New Brunswickers to be released in weeks. Its poll, though, was provided to Sun News Network hours after the Alward’s PCs leaked the results of an internal poll, done by NRG Group of Winnipeg, to Sun News Network and the Telegraph-Journal.

NRG, surveying 1,215 New Brunswickers in live telephone interviews between Aug 21-25, said that the Liberal lead over the Tories was just eight points, 34% to 26%. The NRG/PC poll found the NDP at 13% and Greens at 5%, a result similar to the Forum poll.

In its release, Forum said that, if voters feel the same way on election day as they did at the beginning of the campaign, Gallant’s Liberals would sweep 44 of 49 seats legislature.

At dissolution of the legislature, the PCs had 41 seats and the Liberals had 13 seats. There are new riding boundaries for this election and five fewer seats.

 WATCH: Former Premier Bernard Lord sizes up the tough job ahead for Alward:

A New Democrat last won a seat in New Brunswick in 2003 but the NDP has been shut out since 2006. Only one Green Party candidate has ever been elected to any provincial legislature anywhere in Canada and that was in British Columbia in 2013.

Liberal parties are currently the dominant force from the Manitoba border east. Within the last year, Liberal parties have won majority governments in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. The Liberals in Prince Edward Island already hold a majority.

And, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the opposition Liberals have led the governing Progressive Conservatives in the polls for more than a year. A general election in that province is not expected until late next year.

– With a file from Sun News Network correspondent Bryn Weese in St. George, New Brunswick

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