Well we did it New Brunswick; we turned the 2014 provincial election into a historic event.
Over 64 per cent of voters said ‘no thanks’ to David Alward and the Progressive Conservatives, electing to back the Liberal party and its 32-year-old leader Brian Gallant.
He is Canada’s youngest premier and the first political leader from the Millennial generation.
We also leap-frogged over the NDP – the traditional voice of Canadian progressives – and chose instead to elect Green Party leader and long-time environmental activist David Coon to the Legislative Assembly.
It’s a first for New Brunswick and something relatively new for Canada too. Coon is only the third Green Party candidate to be elected anywhere in the country.
The Greens earned 6.6 per cent of the popular vote and when combined with the NDP’s 13 per cent and the more libertarian-hued People’s Alliance party’s 2.1 per cent, it means about 20 per cent of New Brunswick voters elected to vote against government – both old and new – and instead vote for something different.
But what exactly is that?
If there is one message to take away from this election, it is that New Brunswick voters are deeply ambivalent about their political choices.
There is something poetic about a campaign that left even Elections New Brunswick confused.
So here’s what I want: I want Brian Gallant to act his age.
The Millennial generation has a deep distrust of our political institutions but they also have high levels of optimism for what the future holds.
Now part of that is the excitement of being young, but there is something else there too.
It is their belief that power is shifting to the crowd, and that a group of people, linked by a shared passion and assisted by new technology, can change things.
Millennials are also more progressive on social issues and on moving beyond the boundaries of race, class and gender that have for so long shaped our political conversation.
Now, I’m from cynical old Generation X, but I share that value system too.
So does the Green Party, the NDP and, I believe, a growing number of Conservative voters too.
Certainly my Tory friends talk that way.
So as Brian Gallant prepares to lead, I want him to see that vision realized.
Which means I don’t want to see a lot of familiar faces, leftovers from Shawn Graham’s disastrous one-term government.
I want to see new people, both in his cabinet and in his transition team, who represent the contemporary face of New Brunswick.
That means more women, visible minorities, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities.
It also means business leaders who not only recognize we are in the midst of incredible economic disruption – but who embrace the opportunities this disruption offers New Brunswick.
Because it is those leaders – the ones who think different – who are best equipped to map our path forward.
And to figure out what role natural gas might play in it.
Which means that new government table must be big enough to welcome in those who support shale gas development in New Brunswick.
A September 2014 CBC/Radio Canada poll showed that New Brunswickers are divided on the issue with 49 per cent in favour and 44 per cent against.
I doubt those numbers moved much over the course of this campaign.
We have yet to have a serious, adult conversation about natural resource development in New Brunswick.
We didn’t have one over the past four years, when the choice presented to us was either support it or shut up.
We didn’t have it during this election, mired as it was in the horse-race for seats.
But we do need to have it.
We need to talk about the options available to New Brunswick at this point in its history and then we need to act quickly and decisively to make it happen.
We need to change the conversation.
Changing the party in power isn’t enough.
We need to change the voices too.
Lisa Hrabluk is the founder of Wicked Ideas. Follow her on Twitter @lisahrabluk.
Wicked Ideas’ 2014 election series is financially supported, in part, by the New Brunswick Business Council. Wicked Ideas retains full editorial control of all content and members of the New Brunswick Business Council are not consulted or informed of Wicked Ideas’ content prior to publication.
Hear the audio version at CBC Shift’s website.
Error of omission: The ever-awesome Jeff Sparks, a 21inc alum, pointed out I left people with disabilities off my list of new voices. I corrected that and now they are there. (Posted Wed. Sept. 24 at 8:46 a.m.)
Face palm error: Thanks to Joel MacIntosh for pointing out I had a brain fart and called the People’s Alliance, the Canadian Alliance. Oi. Fixed it. (Posted Wed. Sept. 24 at 11:25 a.m.)