The unofficial results have Gallant’s Liberals holding 27 seats compared to 21 ridings for David Alward’s Progressive Conservatives.
New Brunswick voters also made history by electing Green Party David Coon in Fredericton South. The well-known environmentalist has become the first-ever MLA elected under the Green Party’s banner in New Brunswick.
Gallant did his best to quell any questions about the legitimacy of the Liberal win when he spoke to reporters early on Tuesday morning.
The premier-designate said Elections New Brunswick believes in the fairness of the results and he will leave it up to the independent agency to explain the vote-tabulation debacle.
“Obviously there was a delay but that doesn't deny the results tonight. So we believe that Elections New Brunswick will certainly let New Brunswickers know as to why there was a delay,” Gallant said.
“But we believe we clearly had a convincing plurality of the votes and we certainly have a majority of the seats. So it makes it very clear that New Brunswickers have asked for change and that's exactly what we'll try to deliver for them."
The Liberals won 42.7 per cent of the voted compared to 34.6 per cent for the Progressive Conservatives, 13 per cent for the NDP, 6.6 per cent for the Greens and 2.1 per cent for the People’s Alliance.
‘Valid concerns’ about vote tabulators
The final results were in question for nearly two hours after Elections New Brunswick staff halted results coming from the vote tabulators, which were intended to speed up the counting of the ballots.
There were problems with how a number of memory cards, which contained votes from across the province, were being uploaded.
Michael Quinn, the province’s chief electoral officer, said he understood that many people were concerned about the process.
“Those are valid concerns. We have complete faith in it,” Quinn said of the results.
Jason Stephen, the president of the Progressive Conservatives, took the stage in Woodstock on Monday night and questioned what was then a narrow Liberal lead.
The Tories said the party would wait until later on Tuesday to decide whether they would accept the result or challenge it.
Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said the independent agency must account for the vote-counting problems.
“If you cannot trust that the technology has indicated exactly how New Brunswickers wanted their vote expressed, how do you say to the people of New Brunswick this is an election and these are the results you can have faith in?” Bateman said.
The Progressive Conservatives were not alone in expressing concern with the count. The People’s Alliance of New Brunswick also called for ballots to be counted by hand.
This was the first time the vote-tabulation machines were used in a provincial election. Although, the machines were used in the last New Brunswick municipal election.
Brian Gallant prepares for transition
The Liberals did not waste any time on Tuesday morning to make it clear they were ready to start governing.
Even though Alward has not conceded defeat, Gallant thanked him for his time as premier before raising the topic of transition.
“I would like to thank Mr. Alward for his service and dedication to our province and our country. I look forward to meeting with him in the coming days and I hope that what happened tonight does not stand in the way of a smooth transition,” Gallant said.
Gallant will also have to start looking at his roster of successful candidates as he plans to build a cabinet.
All of the Liberals who re-offered in this election won their seats on Monday. Many of the returning Liberals held cabinet positions in the former Liberal government of Shawn Graham.
Gallant emerged from Monday’s election with a significant power base in northern New Brunswick. The Liberals dominated in the region and knocked off Paul Robichaud, who served as the province’s deputy premier, in Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou.
Liberal Serge Rouselle won in Tracadie-Sheila, which is the first time the Liberals have held that seat since 1994.
Rouselle is the only lawyer, aside from Gallant, in the Liberal caucus, which should put him in good position for a cabinet post.
The Liberals, however, were not as fortunate in southern New Brunswick, particularly in Fredericton and Saint John.
Gallant's party won Saint John East by eight votes and Saint John Harbour by 71 votes. The only Liberal in Fredericton is Stephen Horsman, who won his Fredericton North seat.
The Liberals also won seats in northwestern New Brunswick. Francine Landry was elected in Madawaska les Lacs-Edmundston.
Focus on David Alward’s future
If the election results stand, the senior Tory cabinet ministers who lost on Monday includes Robichaud, Energy Minister Craig Leonard, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams and Education Minister Marie-Claude Blais.
Other cabinet ministers that were defeated, included Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Mike Olscamp, Government Services Minister Sue Stultz, Justice Minister Troy Lifford, Human Resources Minister Robert Trevors and Environment Minister Danny Soucy.
Alward has not conceded defeat, but if that happens, an immediate focus will be put on his future as leader.
Former premiers Bernard Lord and Shawn Graham did not waste any time in announcing they would step aside as party leaders after they were defeated in 2006 and 2010.
Alward’s decision on his future as the Tory leader will have a direct impact on whether the party needs to select both an interim leader and a permanent replacement.
NDP leader resigns after failing to win seat
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy seemed like he had momentum heading into the final week of the election campaign.
When the votes came in on Monday, however, the NDP had another disappointing evening. While the NDP can point to an increase in the popular vote to 13 per cent from 10.8 per cent in 2010 as a moral victory, the party once again failed to elect any MLAs.
Cardy placed second in his riding of Fredericton West-Hanwell, finishing more than 400 votes behind Tory Brian Macdonald.
The NDP ran a moderate campaign and even recruited three former MLAs to run for the party.
Former cabinet minister Tory Bev Harrison finished second in Hampton, former Liberal Abel LeBlanc finished third in Saint John Lancaster and former Liberal cabinet minister Kelly Lamrock finished fourth in Fredericton South.
Even with the high-profile candidates on the ballot, the NDP could not make an electoral breakthrough.
Cardy did not waste any time in clarifying his future. He told his supporters on Monday night that he would resign and allow for a new leader to be picked.
"I'm taking accountability for that by announcing this evening my resignation," he said.
The election’s final result will be a disappointment, but the NDP leader performed well at other points in the campaign.
Cardy was picked by many as the winner of the first televised leaders’ debate. He even issued a statement outlining his demands for participating in a coalition government last week.
But the NDP limped to the finish line. Cardy had to apologize after one of his candidates was linked to a parody video that portrayed the Liberals as Nazis and he had to deal with one of his candidates who raised questions about the party’s shale gas policy.
Green Party leader elected in Fredericton South
The Green Party’s Coon joins B.C.’s Andrew Weaver as the only other politician to be elected to a provincial legislature as a Green Party MLA.
Coon defeated Progressive Conservative Craig Leonard in a close race in the riding of Fredericton South.
“It’s been a night to remember on many counts,” Coon said.
“And certainly a historic night to remember for the people of Fredericton South, for New Brunswick and really for Canada.”
Gallant recognized Coon’s achievement when speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning.
“To Mr. Coon in particular, I offer a special congratulations,” Gallant said.
“Although I definitely would have liked to see our candidate win, his victory is truly historic and our democracy will benefit from having his voice in the legislature."
Third parties only elected one MLA on Monday but, overall, each party increased their share of the popular vote over the results from four years ago.
In addition to the NDP, the Greens saw their vote jump up to 6.6 per cent from 4.5 per cent and the People’s Alliance almost doubled its vote to 2.1 per cent from 1.2 per cent.
Several candidates from third parties finished second in their ridings.
People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin finished 26 votes behind Tory Pam Lynch.