Meet the Fredericton candidates looking for your vote in the 2021 election

·12 min read
Four of the candidates running for the riding of Fredericton in the upcoming federal election include, from left, Liberal Jenica Atwin, Conservative Andrea Johnson, NDP Shawn Oldenburg and Green Nicole O'Byrne. (Submitted - image credit)
Four of the candidates running for the riding of Fredericton in the upcoming federal election include, from left, Liberal Jenica Atwin, Conservative Andrea Johnson, NDP Shawn Oldenburg and Green Nicole O'Byrne. (Submitted - image credit)

Fredericton's next MP might be a bit of a toss-up.

For many years, Fredericton has been known for flip-flopping between the Conservatives and Liberals.

That is until the last federal election, when Fredericton claimed the first Green seat outside of British Columbia — less than 800 votes ahead of the Conservatives.

However, Fredericton went back to Liberal when its MP crossed the floor just three months ago.

So who's it going to be this time, Fredericton?

Here are the candidates in the four major parties running in this year's federal election in one of the country's tightest races:

Jenica Atwin

Jean-Francois Benoit/CBC News
Jean-Francois Benoit/CBC News

Liberal candidate Jenica Atwin admits she had some tough questions to answer while going door-to-door in this year's election.

In June, the former Green MP crossed the floor to represent the Liberals.

"I'm the same person. I have the same values," she said. "I want to work hard for my riding, my community."

While many people have been kind at the door, Atwin said she hasn't received the same response online.

"It's just about talking it through and people have feelings. And I want to validate those feelings, but ultimately it has to come back to the work,," she said.


'I just really am hopeful I can go in and be a loud voice and an environmental voice. Because that's where my passions lie.' - Jenica Atwin, Liberal candidate

Working for the Liberals, Atwin said she has more of an opportunity to fight for what Fredericton needs, including an aquatics centre, a new performing arts centre and a resilience centre.

"I want to see my community thrive because I have that direct access," she said. "I vote for Fredericton."

Although the Liberals welcomed Atwin with open arms, the former Green MP made it clear she does not support the Trans Mountain Pipeline, an expansion project that was approved by the Liberals.

And the environment is still near and dear to her heart.

While Atwin believes the Liberals have a clearer plan than the Greens in its platform to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, she wishes her party was a bit more "aggressive."

Mike Heenan/CBC
Mike Heenan/CBC

The Liberals plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030, while the Greens have a target of 60 per cent.

"I just really am hopeful I can go in and be a loud voice and an environmental voice," she said. "Because that's where my passions lie."

Atwin also hopes to achieve Indigenous reconciliation, which she said goes "hand-in-hand" with addressing Canada's climate crisis.

Climate has to inform every decision we make," she said.

Providing mental health-care

Affordable housing, accessibility to housing and health care and mental health-care, are also top priorities for Atwin and the residents she has spoken with on her door-to-door campaign. She's also hoping to reduce the city's doctor shortage.

The Liberals are proposing to create a Canada Mental Health Transfer that would funnel money to the provinces, just as the health and social transfers do now. The Liberal plan would pump $6.5 billion into mental health services over five years.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Liberals are offering $4.5 billion over five years through the transfer — a sum they say would, when added to previous investments, amount to $2.5 billion in annual funding for mental health services by 2025-26.

That amount is separate from the $1.4 billion in mental health funding over five years for First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, and the $597 million earmarked to provide support for survivors of residential schools and their families earlier this year.

"They need a little Jenica from Fredericton voice in there."

Andrea Johnson

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

Andrea Johnson is back at it again.

The Conservative candidate who came in second place by less than 800 votes in the 2019 election, believes people in Fredericton are ready to go blue.

"They [voters] don't want any more of the same," said Johnson, a business professional with more than 20 years of business and economic development experience.

During the two campaigns, she said she has knocked on thousands of doors — and has the process down to a science. Every two hours, Johnson figures she can manage 100 conversations about her priorities.

She said voters are also concerned about health care and spending.

I am pro-choice, our leader is pro-choice. - Andrea Johnson, Conservative candidate

While she's committed to universal health care, the single mother of four said New Brunswick's health-care system is under-funded.

In the first 100 days in office, she said the Conservatives plan to sit down with each province and find out what they need most and double the current health-care transfers.

"To me that's a good start," she said.

She cited New Brunswick's aging population, and the province's high diabetes rate.

"Our needs in New Brunswick are different."

One of her other top priorities is access to affordable housing, which she calls a "multi-pronged approach" between all levels of government.

"We all need to work together a lot better than what's been happening."

Building 1-million homes

The Conservatives platform includes building one million homes in the next three years.

With more people from outside the province moving in, the pandemic has forced New Brunswick into a supply crisis for housing. Johnson said this has made it difficult for New Brunswickers themselves to buy houses.

"It starts in the big cities but we're feeling it here too."

Christian Patry/CBC
Christian Patry/CBC

She said government first needs to stabilize the real estate market by increasing the number of homes being built.

"Without supply, that's the first barrier right there."

Then, she said there needs to be a ban on foreign investors, who don't have any plans to move here, from buying homes or housing units in New Brunswick.

"It's not a Canadian homeowners market anymore, it's a foreign–owned market," said Johnson, who's also the executive director of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick.

Then, soaring rent increases need to be addressed with the help of municipalities and the private sector to bring new rental markets in.

"I think New Brunswick needs to look at a balanced approach."

In their 2021 platform, the Tories also plan to increase funding to provinces for mental health care. This would also include providing incentives to employers to provide mental health coverage to employees and create a national three-digit suicide prevention hotline.

Abortions and gas emissions

Johnson was also questioned on her stance about Fredericton's Clinic 554, who said it was up to Horizon Health Network to ensure health services are available to all New Brunswickers.

"I am pro-choice, our leader is pro-choice," she said.

"This is an area that has been highly politicized. But we will always ensure that women have access."

She was also questioned about the party's target to reduce gas emissions by just 30 per cent by 2030.

Johnson said her party is going to work hard to hit that 30 per cent target.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

"I don't really understand why we would set a target well over one and above one that we haven't hit yet that the Paris agreement is asking for."

The Conservative platform said it will guarantee clean drinking water for every Indigenous community, get land claim settlements and title issues moving again and address the high cost of food in the North.

"This is a very important issue for us," she said.

Nicole O'Byrne

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

Green candidate Nicole O'Byrne says Fredericton turned red without her consent, calling the move "anti-democratic."

The lawyer and University of New Brunswick professor is replacing Jenica Atwin as the Green Party candidate.

Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals in June following a dispute with Green Party Leader Annamie Paul.

"When you vote, you vote, of course, for the person and the party," O'Byrne said.

"So when someone crosses the floor, it takes your vote and turns it a different way than you had intended at the ballot box."

I'm not running to be prime minister, I'm running to ask better questions on the floor of the House of Commons. - Nicole O'Byrne

O'Byrne said the move didn't sit well with a lot of Green Party members.

As a professor, O'Byrne said she teaches her students, generally, when a person leaves a party, it's to work as an Independent, like Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Once Atwin crossed the floor, O'Byrne said many of her students emailed her saying, "maybe it's time to stop teaching Canadian federalism and start doing something about Canadian federalism."

Health-care, climate change, affordable housing and meaningful reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are the top issues O'Byrne is hearing as she goes door-to-door to speak with constituents.

While campaigning for her husband, Fredericton Deputy Mayor Greg Ericson, this past spring, she also heard people addressing concerns of finding a local doctor and the increase in rental costs.

"The municipality of Fredericton can only do so much," she said. "You actually really need all three levels of government working together to tackle the bigger problems."

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Facebook

She said Fredericton needs someone in Ottawa who can explain constitutional elements, discuss cost-sharing and funding formulas — which she studied working on her PhD.

O'Byrne referred to Canada's health-care cost-sharing formula, which is based on per-capita payments. However, she said the formula doesn't take into account New Brunswick's demographics, which include an older and less healthy population.

"I'm not running to be prime minister, I'm running to ask better questions on the floor of the House of Commons and represent Fredericton's interests and needs in Ottawa."

In its platform, the Green Party proposes aggressive emissions reductions: 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and achieving net zero "as quickly as possible," with a carbon budget and targets to support both. They pitch an acceleration in carbon pricing, with increases of $25 per tonne per year starting in 2022.

"The Green Party platform is based on the best science possible," she said.

No visits from party leader

Despite Fredericton being one of the target ridings for the Green Party, its party leader did not visit the area in the campaign — and doesn't plan to. Paul travelled to Prince Edward Island instead.

CBC
CBC

O'Byrne said that it all came down to timing.

Given the floor crossing, Paul had previously said her visit would be a distraction from the campaign.

O'Byrne agreed, Paul's visit would take away from focusing on the local campaigning that's been going on over the past few weeks.

"I'd like to remind everybody, we're not even supposed to have this campaign right now," she said.

Shawn Oldenburg

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Shawn Oldenburg is the NDP candidate for Fredericton in what he calls the "ridiculous timing election."

The Fredericton riding has never elected a New Democrat to Parliament. But Oldenburg believes people are ready to make a different choice.

"You deserve to be taken care of," said Oldenburg, who's been a letter carrier for Canada Post for the past 30 years.

New Brunswick health care 'a train wreck'

His top priority in this election is improving New Brunswick's health-care system.

"Health care is a train wreck here," he said.

He also promises better access to abortions, referring to the closure of Clinic 554, a family practice run in Fredericton.

CBC
CBC

"Especially during a pandemic, why would you close any medical providing facility during a pandemic?" he said. "That's not doing good for your people."

To do this, Oldenburg said his government would tax the "ultra-wealthy."

I don't have a lot of money in the pot so we have to be very cautious in what we do and I'm not wasting money frivolously. - Shawn Oldenburg, NDP candidate

"Just by taxing the ultra-wealthy, this one per cent wealth tax, it's not a huge amount … it's their fair share."

Then, he goes on to say that every Canadian would pay an additional "on per cent" in tax money, as long as they're guaranteed health care, along with mental health care.

"The government's getting your tax money anyways, you should be able to control where it goes," he said.

The central promise is a new annual wealth tax of one per cent on every dollar a family possesses above $10 million.

The NDP also would increase Canada's top marginal tax rate — on annual income over $216,000 — from 33 per cent to 35 per cent.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

An NDP government would increase the capital gains inclusion rate from 50 per cent to 75 per cent. This change would increase the amount of taxes Canadians have to pay when they make a profit on things like stocks, bonds or property.

The party also wants to pay upward of $200 billion for programs like universal prescription drug coverage, dental care and mental health supports within his first mandate and is vowing to bring in a wealth tax to help pay for it all.

"I'm sure every Canadian would pay one per cent more if they could be guaranteed health care, mental care, all of that."

Election signs are garbage

Earlier this week, Oldenburg also made the decision to stop going door-to-door for his campaign, calling it "irresponsible." This follows the party's stance on door-to-door campaigning.

Instead, he's relying on NDP pamphlets dropped in mailboxes, social media and signs that have recently been put up this week.

But Oldenburg admits, he doesn't have nearly as many signs as the other parties. And they're a lot smaller.

"I don't have a lot of money in the pot so we have to be very cautious in what we do and I'm not wasting money frivolously," he said.

"These signs — let's face it — after Monday, are garbage."

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