07/03/2013 10:37 EDT | Updated 09/02/2013 05:12 EDT

New Brunswick NDP leader eyes Fredericton riding for 2014 provincial election

FREDERICTON - The leader of New Brunswick's NDP, a party that hasn't held a seat in the provincial legislature in eight years, has his sights set on a newly drawn Fredericton riding that he says reflects the diversity of the province.

Dominic Cardy announced Wednesday that he will seek his party's nomination in Fredericton West-Hanwell later this year for the 2014 election.

Cardy said while his party typically has strength in Saint John-area ridings, his decision to seek a Fredericton constituency shows his commitment to changing the province.

"I didn't want to just run in a seat where people would say, 'Well, that's just the leader looking for a safe seat,'" Cardy said in an interview. "We're seen as a very limited party looking to be a voice of conscience in the legislature. That's not my goal with this party. I want us to be able to win."

Cardy said Fredericton is not only where he grew up, but also a constituency that serves as a cross-section of New Brunswick that includes French- and English-speaking constituents, rural and urban communities, and the Kingsclear First Nation.

"I think it's a real microcosm for the province," he said. "Seats like Fredericton West-Hanwell are exactly the seats the NDP need to be able to win next year if we're going to form a government."

Cardy has been leader of the New Democrats since 2011, but has never held a seat in the provincial legislature.

He finished third out of five candidates in a provincial byelection last summer in the Saint John suburb of Rothesay, a longtime Tory riding that was won by Progressive Conservative Hugh Flemming.

Next year's election will be the first under a newly redrawn electoral map. The province's electoral boundaries commission reduced the number of ridings to 49 from 55.

Fredericton West-Hanwell includes two constituencies held by Progressive Conservative members Brian Macdonald and Carl Urquhart.

The New Democrats have not held a seat in the legislature since Elizabeth Weir stepped down in 2005.