New Brunswick Liberal Association
|New Brunswick Liberal Association|
Active provincial party
|Headquarters||Tony Barry House
715 Brunswick Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick
|Seats in Legislature|
|Politics of New Brunswick
The New Brunswick Liberal Association (French: Association libérale du Nouveau-Brunswick), more popularly known as the New Brunswick Liberal Party or Liberal Party of New Brunswick, is one of the two major provincial political parties in New Brunswick, Canada. The party descended from both the Confederation Party and the Anti-Confederation Party whose members split into left-wing and right-wing groups following the creation of Canada as a nation in 1867.
The current political organization emerged in the 1880s to serve as an organization housing the supporters of Premier Andrew G. Blair and, later, federal Liberal Party of Canada leader Wilfrid Laurier.
Today, the New Brunswick Liberal Party competes with the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick to form the government. The social-democratic New Democratic Party of New Brunswick is the only other major party, but is not currently represented in the legislature.
Like its counterparts in the Atlantic Canada provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the New Brunswick Liberal Association serves both the federal Liberal Party of Canada and acts as the provincial party. While its leader acts only in the provincial capacity, the party executive organizes for both provincial and federal election campaigns.
Past presidents of the New Brunswick Liberal Association (term):
- John B. McNair (1932–1940)
- G. Percival Burchill (1941–1953)
- Harry A. Corey (1953–1959
- Wesley Stuart (1960–1963)
- Daniel A. Riley (1963–1964) (Acting)
- Hugh Tait (1964–1966)
- Donald A. McLean (1966–1971)
- Norbert Thériault (1971–1977)
- Peter Seheult (1977–1979)
- Jack Stevens (1979–1983)
- Sumner Fraser (1983–1986)
- Aldéa Landry (1986–1988)
- Mike Murphy (1988–1992)
- Réginald Léger (1992–2000)
- Maurice Richard (2000–2002)
- Jim Mockler (2002–2003) (Acting)
- Greg Byrne (2003–2006)
- Marcelle Mersereau (2006–2007) (Acting)
- J. E. Britt Dysart (2007–present)
Early years and Andrew Blair
Prior to Canadian confederation, advocates of responsible government ran under the labels "Reform" or "Liberal", while opponents of responsible government were known as "Conservatives". With the debates over confederation in the 1860s, the party lines which had emerged blurred as Reformers split along pro and anti-Confederation lines, resulting in Confederation and Anti-Confederation Parties.
Following 1867, supporters of Confederation generally became known as Liberal-Conservatives, or just Conservatives. Those who had been against confederation regrouped loosely as "Liberals", but did not become a coherent party until Andrew Blair, a supporter of Confederation, became Premier of New Brunswick and forged members of his parliamentary government and their supporters into the New Brunswick Liberal Association in 1883.
Blair led a very successful government and served as the Premier of New Brunswick for 13 years. He was New Brunswick's longest serving premier until his tenure was surpassed by Richard Hatfield nearly a century later.
Though Blair had not been a candidate in the 1896 federal election, he joined the federal cabinet of Sir Wilfrid Laurier shortly thereafter when Laurier approached a number of Liberal premiers to join his government and address its lack of experience. This move was not expected by the party and, although it remained in government for 12 more years, it went through a rapid succession of leaders.
After Blair abruptly left the province to join Wilfrid Laurier's cabinet in 1896, the Liberals had a leadership vacuum. James Mitchell, who had been provincial secretary, served briefly as Premier, but Mitchell soon resigned the post due to ill health. Mitchell was replaced by Henry R. Emmerson, who showed some promise but lost the confidence of the house when he tried to introduce women's suffrage in 1900.
The party was saved electoral disaster when Lemuel J. Tweedie, a federal Conservative, replaced Emmerson, and won two large majorities at general elections. Though women's suffrage could not be introduced in the province, he admitted women into the practice of law in 1906, and began the first major hydroelectric project in New Brunswick at Grand Falls. Tweedie unexpectedly accepted the appointment of Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick in 1907, and the Liberals soon found themselves again in a leadership vacuum. William Pugsley became leader and premier, but left the post after a few months to join the Laurier's government in Ottawa. His replacement, Clifford W. Robinson was able but the electorate grew weary of the ever-changing face at head of their government, and the Conservatives swept to power in 1908. The Conservatives were an easy choice for many New Brunswickers in the 1908 provincial election as they had been led since 1899 by John Douglas Hazen, a man with whom they had become familiar. Haven served only briefly, leaving in 1911 to join the federal cabinet of Robert Borden, and was replaced by the charismatic and popular James Kidd Flemming. The Liberals were easily defeated by Flemming in the 1912 election, however, after Flemming was forced to resign in 1914 over a fundraising scandal, the Liberals seemed on track to return to government. This likelihood was reinforced by the lackluster administration of George Johnson Clarke who was in ill health throughout his term. The Liberals were victorious in the 1917 provincial election.
Dysart and McNair
In the midst of the depression, the Liberals made a resurgence in 1932 with Allison Dysart becoming premier. McNair was Dysart's right hand, serving as Attorney General until replacing him as premier in 1940. McNair served until 1952 when he was defeated by Hugh John Flemming.
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Louis J. Robichaud
During the 1960s, the Liberals under Louis Joseph Robichaud were instrumental in bringing Acadians into the mainstream of life in New Brunswick, declaring the province to be officially bilingual. The English and French languages were given equal status.
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Opposition in the Hatfield years
Following defeat in the 1970 election, the Liberals were largely in disarray. The party's prospects in the 1978 election were good, but it changed leaders on the eve of the election, and, under Joseph Daigle was defeated narrowly by the Progressive Conservatives. The PCs won 30 seats in the Legislative Assembly to the Liberals' 28. The party was reduced to 18 seats in 1982 under new leader Doug Young.
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In 1985, the party choose Frank McKenna as leader. McKenna, a young lawyer representing Chatham in the legislature in his first term, ran as the underdog candidate in a leadership campaign against party stalwart Ray Frenette. Frenette had served as interim leader from the disastrous 1982 election until the eve of the 1985 leadership race. McKenna won by significant margin.
McKenna immediately set out to prepare the party for returning to government after 15 years in opposition. The momentum was on the side of the Liberals and it seemed inevitable that McKenna would be premier as soon as an election was held. Few expected, though, that the Liberals would sweep the province, winning every seat—the second time this had happened in Canadian history (the first time was in the Prince Edward Island provincial election of 1935).
McKenna was regarded as a fiscal conservative and was called by some the "Best Tory Premier New Brunswick never had". Despite this, McKenna was a progressive on many issues. He made considerable cuts to social programs because of the province's dire fiscal situation and cuts to federal equalization payments and other transfers. He also instituted new programs. Notably, McKenna instituted a publicly funded kindergarten program—something that had been promised by the Hatfield-led Progressive Conservatives in the previous four elections. McKenna also launched a home care program called "Extramural Nursing" which has been hailed as the best in Canada. In the 2002 Romanow report on the Future of Healthcare in Canada, New Brunswick's system was specifically cited as a model for homecare in Canada.
Despite riding high in the polls, McKenna resigned on October 13, 1997, ten years (to the day) since his first election as premier, fulfilling a promise to serve for only ten years.
McKenna was replaced by Frenette, who had served as his right-hand in the legislature throughout his term. Frenette served as premier for the following seven months while the party chose a new leader. Frenette was replaced by Camille Thériault who served as premier until the 1999 election. The Liberals were defeated in that election despite having begun the campaign with a double-digit lead in opinion polls.
In the 1999 election, the Liberals suffered their worst ever defeat, winning only 10 seats. In 2000, Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Bernard Thériault resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for the Canadian House of Commons in Acadie-Bathurst, and Edmond Blanchard resigned to accept an appointment to the Federal Court of Canada. The Progressive Conservatives won both of these seats in by-elections in early 2001, reducing the Liberals to eight seats in the legislature.
Although the by-election losses were due mainly to Tory promises to reward those who returned a government member, this was a further blow to Camille Thériault's leadership. He resigned from the party leadership and the legislature on March 21, 2001. Bernard Richard, who had finished third in the leadership contest against Thériault in 1998, became interim leader.
In the following leadership contest, there were many candidates that appeared briefly, but withdrew. The original likely candidates were former cabinet minister Paul Duffie, former McKenna adviser Francis McGuire, and Moncton lawyer Mike Murphy. McGuire, after briefly considering a bid, declined. Murphy began the formative stages of a campaign, but abruptly withdrew, surprising many of his supporters. This left Duffie largely unchallenged. The only other candidate was former party organizer Jack MacDougall who had abruptly left the party in the midst of the 1999 campaign.
Many in the party felt that Duffie, who was close to Thériault, was the wrong choice. Richard was urged to abandon the interim leadership and contest the race. He also began a formative campaign but soon announced he would continue as interim leader instead. Finally, after the campaign had already begun in earnest, Shawn Graham, a rookie MLA in his early 30s, announced his candidacy in January 2002. Graham, who was largely underestimated by Duffie, took to a convincing lead in delegate selection meetings. Duffie withdrew, leaving Graham to face only MacDougall whom he defeated by a 3-to-1 margin.
The party chose Shawn Graham as leader on May 12, 2002. Graham continued to be underestimated by the press and by the governing Conservatives. Shocking pundits, Graham nearly won the 2003 election taking 26 of 55 seats in the New Brunswick legislature. Richard, who was re-elected in 2003, accepted a provincial appointment on November 26, 2003. This was in a move by the Conservatives to improve their standing in the winter and spring sessions of the legislature and was viewed as a serious blow to Graham's leadership. Despite this, the Liberals led consistently in opinion polls since then and the Liberals regained Richard's seat in a by-election.
Graham led the Liberals to a narrow victory in the 2006 provincial election winning 29 of 55 seats and losing the popular vote 47.2% to 47.5% for the Progressive Conservatives. The Liberals took power on October 3, 2006. They have since added three extra seats. Chris Collins captured the seat in the riding of Moncton East on March 5, 2007, which was vacated when former Premier Bernard Lord stepped down as leader of the Progressive Conservatives. Wally Stiles and his wife Joan MacAlpine Stiles, elected as Progressive Conservatives, crossed the floor to join the Liberals the following month, April 17.
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Current members of the legislature
Party leaders since 1930
- Wendell P. Jones 1930–1932
- Allison Dysart 1932–1940
- John B. McNair 1940–1954
- Austin Claude Taylor 1954–1957
- Joseph E. Connolly 1957–1958 (interim)
- Louis Robichaud 1958–1971
- Robert J. Higgins 1971–1978
- Joseph Daigle 1978–1981
- Doug Young 1981–1983
- Ray Frenette 1983–1985 (interim)
- Shirley Dysart 1985 (interim)
- Frank McKenna 1985–1997
- Ray Frenette 1997–1998 (interim)
- Camille Thériault 1998–2001
- Bernard Richard 2001-2001 (interim)
- Shawn Graham 2002–2010
- Victor Boudreau 2010–2012 (interim)
- Brian Gallant 2012–present
- List of New Brunswick premiers
- List of political parties in Canada
- New Brunswick Liberal Association leadership election, 2002
- New Brunswick Liberal Association leadership election, 2012
- New Brunswick Liberal Association leadership elections