In the last week of the campaign, the New Brunswick Liberals ran a television ad featuring a picture of a smiling David Alward, the Progressive Conservative leader and Premier, beside Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Ominous music played in the background as a female narrator said: "Conservatives David Alward and Stephen Harper have made a mess of New Brunswick's economy over the last four years." She asked voters if they want another four years of job losses, higher debt, and young people fleeing the province.
It may be a provincial campaign, but Liberal Leader Brian Gallant, the 32-year-old rookie, has been invoking the Prime Minister in one of his key campaign messages: the "Harper-Alward alliance has been bad for New Brunswick."
Mr. Alward's team calls the ad "nasty" – and is not happy the Liberals repeatedly refer to Mr. Alward and his party as the "Alward Conservatives," deliberately forgetting to include the "Progressive" in the party's name.
"They have such a strong brand right now because of Trudeau," says a senior Alward strategist of the Liberals. "The advantage they have is that they have that same brand right across the country. … It's the 'red L'. From a brand perspective it's difficult [for the PCs] because of Harper and some of the policies he's had in Atlantic Canada."
New Brunswickers go to the polls Monday, ending a campaign that has offered voters clear choices, especially on the key issue of job creation.
Mr. Alward, 54, is seeking a second term. He has focused his campaign on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, as a way of creating jobs and keeping young New Brunswickers who have left for jobs in the West at home.
His campaign slogan is "Say Yes" to shale gas, jobs and prosperity. He is hoping the province will see $10-billion in private investment through the government's promotion of natural-resource development, including shale gas and the proposed Energy East pipeline.
Mr. Alward made history in 2010 by winning a majority and defeating the Liberals, who had served just one term – the first time a New Brunswick government lost after just one term. Now, Mr. Gallant wants to do the same to Mr. Alward.
The NDP and the Green Party are not considered big factors – neither has a seat in the legislature. Still, there is a possibility that the party leaders – the NDP's Dominic Cardy, who ran unsuccessfully in a by-election in 2012, and Green Leader David Coon – could win in the Fredericton ridings where they are running.
The Liberals, meanwhile, are running a similar campaign to Kathleen Wynne's in Ontario last spring, using some of the same strategists. Mr. Gallant is promising to invest $900-million in infrastructure spending over the next six years as his job-creation policy. He also said he would put a moratorium on fracking.
Stalking him, though, is the abortion issue. Mr. Gallant says he is pro-choice and has adopted the Trudeau Liberals' position that his caucus members would support pro-choice policies.
But he is being criticized by pro-choice advocates for not definitely saying he would immediately change the contentious regulation in the province that restricts a woman's access to abortion – and anti-abortion advocates are distributing cards of aborted fetuses with Mr. Gallant's picture.
The NDP's Mr. Cardy has said if he forms government, he would wait two years before considering developing the shale-gas industry; on abortion rights, he has promised to immediately get rid of the regulation that denies women access. (Both federal leaders, the NDP's Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, campaigned in the province.)
Over the weekend, Mr. Gallant blitzed the province. Mr. Alward, meanwhile, concentrated on Moncton, Miramichi and Fredericton, where the PCs say the "swing seats" are located.
A list of results from New Brunswick elections dating back to 1967
Fredericton A look at election results in New Brunswick over the last four decades.
1967: Liberals 32, Progressive Conservatives 26.
1970: Progressive Conservatives 32, Liberals 26.
1974: Progressive Conservatives 33, Liberals 25.
1978: Progressive Conservatives 30, Liberals 28.
1982: Progressive Conservatives 39, Liberals 18, NDP 1.
1987: Liberals 58, Progressive Conservatives 0.
1991: Liberals 46, Confederation of Regions 8, Progressive Conservatives 3, NDP 1.
1995: Liberals 48, Progressive Conservatives 6, NDP 1.
1999: Progressive Conservatives 44, Liberals 10, NDP 1.
2003: Progressive Conservatives 28, Liberals 26, NDP 1.
2006: Liberals 29, Progressive Conservatives 26.
2010: Progressive Conservatives 42, Liberals 13.
Files from The Canadian Press