Some Fredericton Hanwell-West voters ready for a third party

The riding of Fredericton West-Hanwell takes in farms, subdivisions, seniors' housing, mobile home parks and the Kingsclear First Nation.

Hanwell Road cuts through one part of the riding, where businesses and subdivisions give way to rural living.

More than 11,000 people live in this riding, and there are five candidates fighting to represent it in the New Brunswick legislature. Candidates range in age, political experience and social ideals.

Former NDP leader turned Progressive Conservative Dominic Cardy is the candidate with the most experience politically. He worked with Washington-based National Democratic Institute, an organization that aims to strengthen democracies in developing countries and later became the leader of the NDP.

Catherine Harrop/CBC

In the last election, he came within 470 votes of taking this riding, but he has since traded NDP orange for PC blue.

"I told all my friends when I made that switch," Cardy said. 

"In the end, you look around the world, the way things are going, we got this crazy combination of right and left-wing extremism going on, and if we believe in social programs and actually having the money to pay for them, getting together behind whatever party that stands for those values, and for me, in New Brunswick, that is very clearly Blaine Higgs' PC party."

What they hear door-to-door

Cardy said at the door people talk primarily about the government spending too much, for too little gain. The issue close to his heart is education; and if you focus on that, it will drive the economy, he said.

Liberal candidate Cindy Miles has highlighted parts of the riding map where she has knocked on every door, at least twice. She started canvassing a year ago.

"I've worn out a pair of sneakers already," she said.

Ed Hunter/CBC

Miles has a background in youth at risk and mental health. She's dealt with many government departments and said she believes collaboration is the way to make things happen.

"I live in the riding, I'm invested in this riding, this is my home, and I'm bringing many different experiences from different sectors," Miles said.

"I've worked in the business sector, I worked in the not-for-profit sector, I'm a mom, and a daughter, and a granddaughter and I deeply, deeply, care about community engagement."

What the voters care about

At a local senior's home Miles was quizzed on French and English school busses, the growing debt, and literacy testing scores. Miles had inadvertently followed Cardy's canvassing path and resident Anah Hunter had just heard from him.

"I'm impressed with both, but after Dominic talked, I went up to him and said, 'You know, you're far enough left that I could vote for you,'  And I found later he was head of the NDP party. I didn't know," Hunter said.

Resident Marjorie Butland said she doesn't care much for the third parties such as NDP, Green Party or the People's Alliance.

"I'm not that interested in the other three, because these two main ones, they're the ones going to govern," she said.

But resident Natasha Landry disagrees.

"I'm sort of tired of the same two parties, Liberal, Conservative, Conservative, Liberal, I'm interested in hearing what other parties have to offer," she said.

The third parties

NDP candidate Olivier Hebert uses his bike to canvass, and said only having a bicycle means many of his orange signs haven't made it to the riding.

But as a 22-year-old and the only transgender man in the race, he said his lifetime of LGBTQ activism makes him attuned to those who need a champion.

Catherine Harrop/CBC

"I think, as someone who has been doing activism for almost 10 years now, it's part of who I am," he said. "Being queer, being trans, being bilingual in a minority situation, means that politics has been a necessary part of who I am. My identities don't come without a need to fight for them."

Canvassing took Green Party Candidate Susan Jonah to an unusual spot — the Dumfries Men's Club.

The Hanwell municipal councillor, with a forest ranger background, is campaigning on a new school for the area,  better forest management, and transparency in government — including not having to always toe the party line.

"The things I've wanted to change most in my life, is that it's always been back and forth with the two traditional parties, and really we've gotten nowhere," she said.

Catherine Harrop/CBC

She said she was recruited by Green Party leader David Coon.

"When David asked me to do this, I kind of went, 'Well, I'm a bit of an independent thinker, you know.' And he kind of smiled and said, 'We like independent thinkers', so that's a good thing," Jonah said.

The People's Alliance candidate Jason Paull's face said he is getting plenty of calls for signs. He said as a paramedic, his focus is on the healthcare system.

"It does need a big overhaul. Our wait times in the emergency rooms are through the roof. Wait times to see specialists, shortage of doctors, shortage of nurses around the province, that's got to be addressed," he said.

Catherine Harrop/CBC

And his solution would be to stop corporate handouts and put money back into frontline services, he said. 

Fredericton West-Hanwell has a full choice of candidates who talk about a school for the area, high speed internet for all, jobs, health and education. But all of them agree on one thing: they want people to vote on Sept. 24.

Resident Mel Jefferson said they'll be heading to the polls that day.

"There's a lot of people who get in the office and they promise this, and they promise that, and they're good for a little bit and then everything's downhill," Jefferson said. "I'm hoping to vote this year."