With 3 Provincial Elections on the Horizon, Summer Campaigning Heats Up

With 3 Provincial Elections on the Horizon, Summer Campaigning Heats Up
A voter arrives to cast her ballot at an advance polling station in North Vancouver on Oct. 20, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)
Tara MacIsaac
Updated:
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Candidates are knocking on doors in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick ahead of fall elections, and some of the key issues are the same across the provinces. Affordability, health care, and education are on many voters’ minds.

In all three provinces, the premiers are in the race.

British Columbia Premier David Eby faces his first election, and it comes amid a major shift in provincial politics.

The B.C. Conservatives were on the fringes only a year ago, without official party status in the legislature and no candidates elected in 2020. But they’ve shot past the BC United official Opposition party in the polls, and they’re getting closer to the governing NDP, which has nonetheless maintained a fair lead. Meanwhile, BC United are going into the election for the first time with a new name after changing their name from the B.C. Liberals.
In Saskatchewan, where the Saskatchewan Party has held majority governments for nearly two decades and where Premier Scott Moe enjoys high approval ratings, the race may be a little closer for the incumbent in this round. The Saskatchewan Party maintains strong support in rural areas, but the NDP has strong urban support. It took two Regina seats from Mr. Moe’s party in a byelection last summer.
In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs has struggled with division in his caucus but touts the province’s economic strength and growth under his leadership. Polls have generally shown the Liberals with a narrow lead over Mr. Higgs’s Progressive Conservatives.

British Columbia

B.C.’s October election will be the first for Premier Eby, who will have to balance family time with campaigning this summer, as he just welcomed the birth of a new daughter in June.

Besides a first-term premier, there are several other notable new elements in this election, including the B.C. Conservatives’ rapid rise in popularity and BC United campaigning under its new name.

Since the end of May, three BC United MLAs have crossed the floor to join the province’s Conservatives.

Vote-splitting between BC United and the Conservatives, both of which count on the right-of-centre vote, could be a big factor in how the province’s election goes this fall. The two parties even entertained the idea of a non-competition agreement to avoid the vote-splitting, but negotiations ultimately failed.

If an NDP minority government is elected, B.C. Conservative Leader John Rustad says he would consider working with BC United to “take them down.” He made the comments during a talk at the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce on June 20.

Mr. Eby, meanwhile, has criticized the negotiations between the two parties as “a marriage of convenience” that “powerful interests,” or lobbyists, tried to arrange.

Polls Show: The NDP was ahead of the Conservatives by 11 points as of May 30, according to an Angus Reid poll. Polling aggregator 388Canada suggested that gap to be 8 points as of June 26. The aggregator indicated that BC United is behind the Conservatives by 21 points, and only one point ahead of the Green Party.
The NDP: Mr. Eby is facing his first election as premier. He took over the position when his predecessor John Horgan stepped down two years ago after years of struggling with illness. Mr. Eby won the NDP leadership vote when his only challenger was disqualified for misconduct. He previously served as the province’s attorney general.
Mr. Eby’s recent public statements have marked a shift in tone toward Ottawa. At the close of the Western premiers’ conference last month, he criticized Ottawa for sending immigration funding to Quebec, saying B.C. should have its fair share as well.
In the following days, he made multiple other statements about Ottawa’s spending in Quebec and Ontario, calling for more investments in Western Canada as well. He said B.C. will consider joining Newfoundland and Labrador in a court challenge over federal equalization payments.
With the federal Liberals lagging in popularity, putting himself in opposition to them may be a strategic move ahead of the election.
BC United, formerly the B.C. Liberal Party, will be running for the first time under its new name, and may derive similar benefits from disassociating with the federal Liberals.
BC United: BC United Leader Kevin Falcon, official opposition leader, has billed his party as the centrist choice. 
Mr. Falcon has promised to lower personal income tax, saying it will boost the province’s economic competitiveness. A campaign backgrounder on his party’s website criticizes the NDP for increasing taxes and fees. The party’s platform focuses on ending “the tax grabs,” balancing the budget, and creating jobs with a competitive business environment.
He has been critical of the NDP’s drug policies. Both Mr. Falcon and the Conservatives’ Mr. Rustad have said they would end the decriminalization pilot that allows for possession of some hard drugs.
The province recently recriminalized public drug use after a public outcry over open drug use, especially in hospitals and around playgrounds.
The Conservatives: While their opponents disassociate from the federal Liberals, the B.C. Conservatives may be getting a boost from the gaining popularity of the federal Conservatives.
Mr. Rustad has echoed federal Tory Leader Pierre Poilievre’s call to “axe” the carbon tax, but at the provincial level. “It makes absolutely no sense to be taxing people into poverty to try to change the weather,” he said during his talk at the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
He criticized the NDP’s safer supply approach to addiction, which involves giving addicts opioid prescriptions. He said those addicts still often take the more dangerous street drugs, as they are stronger, and sell their prescriptions. He would spend more on addiction treatment and would consider involuntary recovery in some extreme cases.
Mr. Rustad’s first question in the legislature as the leader of the party in October 2023 was on use of SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) resources in schools, calling it “divisive” and an “assault on parents’ rights.”
The Greens: Climate change policies always factor big in the B.C. Green Party’s platform, but the party is also talking affordability, including support for co-op housing and housing geared to people’s income.
Leader Sonia Furstenau has said she will be looking to solve the root causes of addiction, such as depression. She calls for more drug-checking services and for educating youth about the danger of drugs.
The Green Party currently holds two seats in the legislature, one being Ms. Furstenau’s. She has announced she will not run in the riding she has represented since 2017, but rather will run in the NDP-stronghold of Victoria–Beacon Hill after moving to the area. MLA Adam Olsen, who currently holds the other seat, has said he will not seek re-election.

Saskatchewan

Mr. Moe has consistently ranked high on premier approval surveys. With an increasing rural-urban divide, however, a byelection last August saw Mr. Moe’s Saskatchewan Party lose ground in Regina to the NDP. The Saskatchewan Party held on to one of the three seats up for grabs, but the Saskatchewan United Party nabbed a significant number of votes for that one, leading Mr. Moe to warn of vote-splitting in future elections.
The two top issues chosen by Saskatchewan residents for this election are cost of living and health care, according to an Angus Reid poll published March 15. A significant number of those surveyed thought the government was doing a poor job on those issues, though they have high confidence in Mr. Moe’s ability to handle the economy.
Polls Show: The latest polls for Saskatchewan, from March, show Mr. Moe’s Saskatchewan Party with 49 percent of the popular vote projection and the NDP with 40 percent, according to 338Canada. Angus Reid’s March 15 poll indicated the Saskatchewan Party has a 12-point advantage provincially, with support particularly strong outside of the province’s two major cities. The Saskatchewan United Party had 5 percent of the projected popular vote, according to 338Canada.
The Saskatchewan Party: Mr. Moe is among Canada’s most well-supported premiers. He ranked third in the nation as of June 2024, with 49 percent approval, according to an Angus Reid poll, behind only the premiers of Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.

He has made headlines for his strong stance against Ottawa’s carbon tax, refusing to collect it in Saskatchewan, as well as on gun ownership. He also led major policy changes in favour of informing parents when children are transitioning genders at school and banning third-party presenters who may speak to students about gender and sexuality.

The NDP: Carla Beck has held the NDP leadership position for about two years. She has a strong support base in her hometown of Regina. In her recent social media posts, she says she would prioritize hiring local workers for public contracts, hire more teachers to cope with the growing number of students in the province, and is ready to pursue a court challenge for a better deal on federal equalization payments.
She also said she would repeal Mr. Moe’s school policy legislation. She criticized him for “passing laws that target LGBTQ+ youth.”
The Saskatchewan United Party: The party was formed in 2022 after MLA Nadine Wilson left the Saskatchewan Party caucus over COVID-19 vaccination status.
Current Leader Jon Hromek weighed in on the school policy issue in a July 2 video posted on X. He promised an opt-in strategy for classrooms ensuring parents “are properly notified about age-inappropriate content before it reaches their kids.” He has also said law enforcement is a priority, as Saskatchewan has the highest violent crime rates in Canada. Provincial sovereignty and firearm rights are also listed as top priorities on the party’s website.

New Brunswick

For some time last year, there was talk that a snap election might be called amid division in Premier Higgs’s Progressive Conservative Party. That didn’t happen. But when Mr. Higgs announced last September that he would run for re-election, he said, “I recognize that all New Brunswickers rightly expect a government to be unified and focused on achieving better outcomes for the province.”
What the Polls Say: 338Canada’s latest update, on March 9, indicated that the province’s Liberals have a four-point lead on Mr. Higgs’s Progressive Conservatives. Liberals had 40 percent of the projected popular vote, PCs 36 percent, Greens 17 percent, the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick 4 percent, and the NDP 4 percent.
The Progressive Conservatives: Mr. Higgs has touted the province’s fiscal surplus, which tops that of other provinces, and its strong population growth as reasons for his intention to continue leading the province. He has also said he has managed to attract record investments to New Brunswick, and will be focused on addressing the issues of housing and health care.

Mr. Higgs has said the issue of parental rights is important to him, saying that as a parent and grandparent himself, he has “great difficulty” when “the family unit is being jeopardized by policy.”

The Liberals: Liberal Leader Susan Holt makes three main promises on her campaign website: to immediately implement a rent cap, to remove the provincial tax from home electricity bills, and to introduce a universal school food program.
At the end of this year’s legislative session, she touted Liberal motions that had passed, including those regarding “misuse of public funds,” the removal of PST from housing developments, improving labour relations, and taking action on coastal erosion. She says her party will also be strong on retaining health-care workers.
The Greens: The province’s Green Party has recently called for primary health care to be a legal right, and Leader David Coon has said he would reverse subsidies for pulp and paper mills and improve public transportation.
The People’s Alliance of New Brunswick: The party’s leader is Rick DeSaulniers, a former Fredericton-York MLA. Housing and health care figure prominently on the party’s website, with promises to boost public housing and tenant protections and expand nursing home capacity.

All three provincial elections will be held by the end of October. British Columbia’s election will be on or before Oct. 19, New Brunswick’s on or before Oct. 21, and Saskatchewan’s on or before Oct. 28.