Just weeks before the provincial election in New Brunswick, post-graduate student Caitlin Grogan was saddled with a nearly impossible task. Nominated as the NDP candidate for the riding of Quispamsis, just north of Saint John, Grogan had to scramble to gain support and share her vision – all without holding rallies or going door to door due to the pandemic.
Oh, and she would be taking on incumbent Progressive Conservative premier Blaine Higgs. No sweat.
Grogan, who joined PSAC Local 60550 last year as a research assistant at the University of New Brunswick, took it all in stride. She found innovative ways to get in touch with voters on a shoestring budget, like visiting parks and community centres to chat with residents, painting campaign slogans on rocks along popular walking trails, and maintaining a prolific social media presence.
“We’ve definitely had to be creative,” Grogan said with a chuckle.
Grogan campaigned for abortion access and specialized LGTBQ2+ healthcare – hotly contested issues in the province right now – which stem from her work as an activist before running for office.
Grogan faced an uphill battle – the NDP haven’t held a seat in the legislature since 2005 – but she hammered home the notion that every vote counts.
“A lot of folks really believed that since Blaine was the premier, there was no point in getting out and voting or supporting progressive values because they thought he was a shoo-in,” said Grogan. “But your vote matters for a number of reasons, and I tried to change that conversation.”
While Blaine Higgs secured a comfortable majority on election day, Grogan’s grassroots campaign bore fruit, boosting the NDP’s standing in her riding from dead last in 2018 to neck-and-neck with the Green party in third, doubling voter turnout for her party.
“In New Brunswick, parties get money for every vote cast for their candidates, so you’re really voting with your cash,” explained Grogan. “Being able to lay the groundwork for the next election is hugely important.”
While Grogan didn't topple the premier on election night, she’ll continue fighting for the change she believes in, both in her community and her union.
“Winning a seat would have been incredible, but in a snap election during a pandemic, we had to think small, and we have to continue pushing those policy conversations forward.”