As the 32-day campaign enters its final hours, jobs and the economy have emerged as the major issue.
The province is looking for a way to renew former Liberal premier Frank McKenna's successful run of job creation from 1987 to 1997, when calls centres and technology startups helped lift the province from economic decline.
That period stands in sharp contrast to the province today, as employment for workers between the ages of 25 and 44 has fallen by 3,800 people since 2010 when Tory Premier David Alward took power, and the public debt stands at $12.2 billion and rising.
"My sense is the electorate is ... wondering what is the path forward to prosperity," says economist Yves Bourgeois, who teaches at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.
Alward is trying to win support by promising a shale gas industry and carrying through on his plan to boost the forestry industry by making more softwood available on Crown lands.
In the final debate of the campaign, Alward also associated Liberal Leader Brian Gallant's promise to spend almost a billion dollars on infrastructure with former Liberal premier Shawn Graham's economic record.
"The reality during Shawn Graham's last budget, he spent more than any government in the history of New Brunswick on a capital project, he still lost 7,000 jobs," he said. "It (Gallant's plan) will not create real jobs."
Graham's government was the first in the province's history to last only a single term when it was defeated by Alward's Tories four years ago.
Gallant's central economic promise is to spend $900 million over six years to pave roads, repair bridges and upgrade other infrastructure to create jobs, which he concedes would drive the province further into debt.
On the first weekend of the election, Gallant entertained Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail as they teamed up to attack Alward over shale gas. The federal leader backed Gallant's call for a moratorium to do more study, drawing a rebuke from Alward at the annual premiers conference.
Bourgeois says the various proposals being offered to voters lack the innovative flavour of the McKenna era or the long-term vision of other efforts to rebuild economies around the globe.
"We wired all the communities of New Brunswick, we attracted call centres, we had momentum. But we weren't going to be able to sustain this on low-cost call centres. We needed to build on that," he said.
"Megaprojects like pipelines and shale gas wells are three to seven years at most," he wrote in a followup email.
"That seems to be the extent of the vision for the Conservatives. The Liberals talk about education and infrastructure, but these are means to ends, and it's not clear what those ends are."
David Murrell, an economist who teaches public finance at the University of New Brunswick, said in his volunteer church work in Fredericton he's encountering growing numbers of working poor who are unable to make ends meet.
"We are in a bad budgetary situation ... but you can't spend your way out of low growth," he said.
"I voted Liberal 20 or 30 years ago because McKenna created the call centre industry. ... He created a new industry from scratch."
He said he is supporting Alward's shale gas policy because the initiative is at least an attempt to find a similar focus for the future.
"You need a new sunrise industry come in to create jobs from scratch," said the professor.
But the shale gas policy is polarizing, he added, and doesn't inspire many New Brunswickers as they remain concerned about environmental issues and the impact on the province's large hunting and fishing industries.
In a province where recent politics is dominated by the Liberals and Tories, the NDP and Green party have drawn attention as Monday's vote approaches.
Murrell said NDP Leader Dominic Cardy has preached moderation in economic and fiscal policies that will attract some voters.
Cardy has reorganized the NDP, restored its finances and shifted economic policies to the centre, promising a balanced budget, tax credits for employers who create new jobs and an end to corporate subsidies.
The party has also attracted former Tory and Liberal members of the legislature and cabinet to run for the NDP, which has never held more than one seat in the legislature.
The Liberals, perhaps concerned that the NDP could split their vote in key ridings, have focused attacks on the third-party rival as much as the Tories in recent days.
Gallant's attacks on Alward also included accusations that the premier's Progressive Conservatives have been too close to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to New Brunswick's detriment on things like changes to the employment insurance system.
When the legislature dissolved, the Progressive Conservatives had 41 members, the Liberals 13 and there was one Independent. The election is being fought on a new electoral map that cuts the number of seats in the legislature to 49 from 55.Suggest a correction