Amid a bizarre vote-counting snafu, rookie politician Brian Gallant led his Liberal party to a majority election victory in New Brunswick, as voters rejected the Progressive Conservatives’ bid to jump-start a moribund economy by expanding its shale gas industry.
With most of the polls reporting after a tight battle that went well into the night, the tabulation of ballots was suspended Monday around 10:45 p.m. for almost two hours as concerns arose about technical glitches with memory sticks and discrepancies with vote-counting machines.
Before the count was stopped, Brian Gallant’s Liberals and the Tories under David Alward were locked in a tight contest. That changed once the results were updated with the Liberals winning 27 ridings compared to the Progressive Conservatives with 21, though the Tories demanded that every ballot be counted by hand to ensure the legitimacy of the election.
Green party Leader David Coon was elected in the riding of Fredericton South, a result that represents a breakthrough for a party that has never held a seat in the New Brunswick legislature.
The vote counting glitch caused the Tories to call for all the votes to be counted by hand, while the Liberals said Elections New Brunswick needed to be left alone to determine the outcome.
A spokesman for Elections New Brunswick said the agency encountered a technical problem with the tabulation machines it was using to count ballots. Paul Harpelle said in an email that there were problems uploading data from memory cards.
The president of the Progressive Conservatives raised the possibility of the party rejecting the results without every vote being counted by hand.
“We are calling on Elections New Brunswick to count every vote by hand as they always have,” Jason Stephen said. “It is best to make sure that all votes are counted properly. At that time we will accept the outcome of the election from the New Brunswick population.”
Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc, a key member of Gallant’s election team, took a different line, arguing the parties should allow Elections New Brunswick to do its work.
“The results in this election will not be determined by the bluster of political parties,” he told party supporters at Gallant’s campaign headquarters near Moncton. “It’s important that Elections New Brunswick be allowed to determine the vote in every riding.”