Lawyer and professor at the University of New Brunswick Nicole O’Byrne will run for the Green Party in Fredericton in the next federal election.
O’Byrne replaces former Green Party candidate and MP Jenica Atwin, who won the party’s first federal seat outside of British Columbia in 2019. Atwin crossed the floor to join the Liberals last month after a dispute with leader Annamie Paul and one of her advisors.
Party members in the riding voted over the weekend and selected O’Byrne over Anthea Plummer and Tim Thompson.
Now the party, and O’Byrne, are hoping to take the riding back.
“We won the 2019 federal seat … and we’re going to do that again, folks,” O’Byrne told a group of about 20 Green supporters.
The federal Green Party has been consumed with infighting, partly sparked by Atwin’s defection. The party executive had moved to start a leadership review of Paul, which was halted after the embattled leader was granted a court injunction. She’s now being sued by the party’s governing body over those internal procedures.
But as rumours of a looming federal election swirl, O’Byrne says she’s focusing on mobilizing the party faithful in the riding, not the internal disputes taking place between Paul, some parts of the party executive and membership.
“We’ve got a lot of money to spend on this campaign, we’ve got a lot of volunteers, we’ve got a lot of workers who actually know how to win. We won in 2019, we just need to do that again,” O’Byrne said.
“How are we going to do it? By running a very big tent, idea-based, climate change priority one type of campaign.”
Leader of the provincial party David Coon says O’Byrne is well suited to the task of regaining the trust of the electorate following Atwin’s decision to cross the floor.
“The trust that voters had put in Jenica was lost. People didn’t want a Liberal MP, they wanted a Green MP,” Coon said.
“There’s no doubt that Nicole O’Byrne will regain that trust.”
Fredericton was a tight three-way race in 2019, with Atwin taking the seat by less than 800 votes, and the riding is expected to be competitive once again. Atwin is expected to run for the Liberals, while Andrea Johnson, who finished second in 2019, will run for the Conservatives. The NDP did not immediately respond to an email asking if a candidate had been selected for the riding.
Donald Wright, a professor of political science at the University of New Brunswick, expects the riding to get a lot of attention during the campaign.
“Can Jenica Atwin get re-elected as a Liberal, can the Greens take it back, or will the Greens and the Liberals split the consecutive vote to allow the Conservatives … to win the riding?” Wright said.
“The Liberals would dearly love to win Fredericton, because they want their majority and … it’s going to come down to a handful of ridings and Fredericton is going to be one of those ridings.”
But Fredericton is likely to be one of the main targets for the Greens as well as they hope to at least restore the party caucus to three.
“The Greens will try their best and try to target ridings that they think they can win federally and put some resources in,” said Jamie Gillies, a professor of public policy and communications at St Thomas University.
“One of those may be Fredericton.”
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