New Brunswick has a new premier. Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward has won his province's election, casting aside doubters - including Tories - who questioned his ability to win.
Alward has a strong majority and firm control over his party, lest there be any further uncertainty about this man's skill and ability to seal a deal.
How did he win? He ran a near perfect campaign with virtually no mistakes. He had a sophisticated TV ad buy in key markets with limited print advertising. He exploited his main opponent's biggest error - the failed NB Power sale - with great effectiveness. He presented himself and the Tories as a plausible option to the governing Liberals. Finally, after polls tightened a week ago he and his team took nothing for granted, worked hard until the end, kept pounding the Liberals on NB Power and got their vote out.
Some Tories I know who worked on this campaign shared a fascinating tidbit about voters' view of the outgoing premier Shawn Graham. Apparently, focus-group testing on Graham revealed him to be, in the eyes of those tested, a "cheater." That identity mainly derived from how he managed the failed NB Power sale and the fact he never apologized to the people of the province for the mistake many of them thought he made.
Alward has a daunting task ahead of him but if this election proved anything about the new premier it is that he should never be underestimated. He has the nose of a winner.
One last compliment to Alward: Another way to judge a leader is by the people he attracts to work with him and those around him. Brian MacDonald and Wes McLean were elected to the legislature last night for the first time. These young New Brunswickers, members of Alward's team, went home to seek elected office after successfully working for various federal ministers in Ottawa. For their courage they are to be commended. Like others elected last night they are talented and should be able help make a difference for the new government and people of New Brunswick.