National

David Coon credits big win in Fredericton South riding to student involvement

Photo by Andrea Bárcenas/The Aquinian

FREDERICTON (CUP) — Green Party of New Brunswick leader David Coon said his monumental election win in Fredericton South was thanks in large part to student votes and involvement on campus.

Coon was the first Green Party member of the legislative assembly elected in the province, and only the second nationwide, after winning a tight race that saw the four running parties separated by only 11 per cent of the preliminary vote count.

“I think the student and the youth votes were instrumental to winning the riding in Fredericton South,” Coon said. “We knew it would be a close race, so it was critical that students and youth got out to vote for our side, for myself, to help push us over the top. I have no doubt that played a significant role.”

Coon received 2,272 votes, or 30 per cent, while incumbent Progressive Conservative Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard earned 1,938 votes, or 26 per cent.

Coon said students were involved in his campaign since they began brainstorming an approach for the campaign last year.

“We put a strong emphasis on knocking on every door, not just once, but every week,” he said. “We had students on campus organizing for us and I made sure I was on the campus a number of times as well.”

First-year St. Thomas University student Shania Paget supported Coon when casting her first ballot in Fredericton South. She said she jumped at the opportunity to vote for the first time.

“David Coon was on campus all the time. It seemed like he cared about us as students,” she said. “He cares about reforestation. New Brunswick has a high deforestation rate, and that’s a huge issue. He offers solutions to problems, and his hard work paid off.”

For Paget, Coon’s success in Fredericton South after being excluded from CTV’s recent leader’s roundtable felt surreal.

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STU history professor Brad Cross served as communications director for Coon’s campaign. He said Coon not being invited to participate in the discussion, hosted by CTV Atlantic evening news anchor Steve Murphy, actually helped the party.

“Some felt this was unjust,” said Cross. “I think it boosted a mood for change, and David Coon’s election symbolized that change.”

The Fredericton South seat is the second provincial seat for the party in Canada, with Andrew Weaver winning a seat for the Greens in British Columbia last year. Federal Green leader Elizabeth May also won a seat in British Columbia in 2011.

Coon said, like May, he will organize roundtables to discuss the issues with constituents, including specific post-secondary meetings, in the coming year.

“This is plowing new ground,” he said. “It’s really important to me that people see the opportunities here and students see the opportunity to be routinely engaged.”