New polling data, platforms and a call to avoid splitting the vote

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Today we have got fresh polling data that's been incorporated into CBC's Poll Tracker. As well, Jacques Poitras sends  along a note about candidates for two parties in separate Fredericton ridings urging people not to split the vote.

The day saw two parties release their platforms. With less than two weeks until the Sept. 24 election, the Greens, NDP, PCs and People's Alliance have issued their plans.

And a reminder that CBC's English-language leaders debate will be held tomorrow evening. You can watch on television or online via cbc.ca/nb, Facebook Live and Twitter and listen on CBC Radio.

Speaking of the debate, tomorrow's newsletter will be coming out late to include tidbits from the debate. 

Moving on to today ...

Top headlines

From the trail

Provincial affairs reporter Jacques Poitras sends along this note:

Is there a political echo in Fredericton, bouncing back and forth across the St. John River?

In two area ridings, two candidates from the two mainstream parties, in tough races against two leaders from two upstart parties, have adopted strikingly identical messages.

In Fredericton-Grand Lake, PC incumbent Pam Lynch is being challenged from the right by Kris Austin, the leader of the People's Alliance, whom she beat by a mere 26 votes in 2014.

Across the river in Fredericton South, Liberal candidate Susan Holt hopes to dislodge David Coon, the Green leader who won the party's first-ever seat in the last election by rallying the riding's left-leaning voters.

Despite the ideological differences, the messages from Lynch and Holt are uncannily similar.

"I think the people of Fredericton South deserve a representative who can bring them, and their voices and ideas, into the rooms where budgets are finalized and decisions are made," Holt says in a Sept. 5 Facebook video.

In other words, Coon can't form a government, but Holt can be part of one.

Across the river, Lynch's campaign is distributing a flyer with almost identical phrasing: "To be sure Fredericton-Grand Lake gets the attention it needs and deserves, elect a member who will have a seat at the table of Government."

Lynch is, however, more explicit in explaining the dynamics of her race to voters. She points out, correctly, that in the last election, Austin's Alliance split the vote with the PCs in several ridings, helping the Liberals win enough seats to form a majority government.

"In this election, the Liberals are counting on exactly the same thing," she says in the flyer. To stop them from "sneaking up the middle" again and avoid "four more years of Liberal mismanagement," she adds, voters must elect PC MLAs as part of a PC government.

Leave aside for a moment the obvious fact that Holt and Lynch can't both be right about being on the side of government: their argument has a long history in New Brunswick, dating back to colonial times, when a British governor lamented that members of the assembly cared only about bringing the spoils of power to their districts.

It's particularly noteworthy coming from Holt, who said when she announced her candidacy that the province needed "new, modern politicians to step up and change the system."

The "seat at the table" argument can be effective, though. It resonates particularly strongly in rural constituencies, where provincial services loom large and a local MLA on the right side wields more influence on daily life.

It can be less effective in urban constituencies. In 2005, PC candidate Michelle Hooton leaned heavily on it it in a Saint John Harbour byelection and went on to lose by a wide margin.

The bottom line, though, is this message sends a signal to voters that a candidate's personal qualities — her experience, her approach, her interest in the issues — matters less than the colour on her signs and the place she would occupy on the political chessboard.

The pulse

Fresh polling results were added to Poll Tracker this morning and the Liberals continue to be in a position to form a majority government. 

The interactive feature, maintained by CBC poll analyst Éric Grenier, aggregates all publicly available polling data to follow the trends of the election.

The latest data from Corporate Research Associates — and keep in mind there have only been two polls published so far during the campaign — show a narrowing margin between the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.

However, Éric notes the movement hasn't been significant, and the poll has a relatively small sample size.

Interestingly, Éric notes a "significant proportion" of voters say they will support another party. That's led to notable support for the Green and People's Alliance parties. 

Jacques Poitras/CBC News

Riding profile: Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West

The Riding-With-The-Long-Name edition comes via CBC's Julia Wright.

Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West spans three islands — Grand Manan, White Head, and Deer Island — and the quiet coves and harbours of Back Bay and Mascarene, spilling over the industrial rim of west Saint John.

In between is St. George — the riding's largest urban centre with a population of 1,543 — and a smattering of scenic, once-thriving fishing communities like Blacks Harbour, Chance Harbour, and Dipper Harbour.

CBC News

The traditionally Liberal riding has incumbent Rick Doucet up against Progressive Conservative Andrea Anderson Mason, Keith LeBlanc for the NDP, Romey Heuff for the Green Party and Doug Ellis for the People's Alliance.

Where the leaders were

Kris Austin: Sussex, Petitcodiac​, Moncton to release the party platform, and Burton.

David Coon: Fredericton. 

Brian Gallant: Saint John and Moncton.

Blaine Higgs: Moncton for the unveiling of the party platform

Jennifer McKenzie: Saint John. 

More coverage

For complete coverage | Links to all New Brunswick Votes 2018 stories

New Brunswick Poll Tracker | Get the latest projections here

Vote Compass | See how your views compare with the parties' platforms

Help CBC track political ads on Facebook | Learn how here