Former Ottawa school board chair acclaimed as N.B.’s NDP leader
A Fredericton-born tech entrepreneur who has spent much of her life in Ontario has been acclaimed leader of the New Brunswick NDP.
The party announced Jennifer McKenzie, a former chair of Ottawa’s public school board and one-time vice-president of tech manufacturer Instantel Inc., as its new leader Thursday.
McKenzie launched her candidacy for the leadership in April; no other candidates came forward before nominations closed on Tuesday.
She replaces Dominic Cardy, who resigned New Year’s Day after blaming party infighting and who now works for the Progressive Conservatives.
The party has no seats in the provincial legislature, with an election coming next fall.
McKenzie, who turns 55 next week, is an engineer who worked in Ontario before returning to the province.
She said in an interview she enjoyed working at small firms and helping them grow.
“I got very used to being the only woman in the room ... and learning how to be successful in that environment,” McKenzie said.
She said it doesn’t feel like an uphill battle for the NDP, saying the base has been “flocking back” to the party since Cardy left.
“We’re going back to our roots and who we are, based on the founding principles that Tommy Douglas brought to the party, but we’re taking those into the future.”
The NDP failed to win a seat under Cardy, but won 13 per cent of the popular vote - its best showing in the province to date.
McKenzie said she has her eye on several potential seats but hasn’t yet decided where she will run.
She finished third when she ran for the New Democrats in New Brunswick’s Fundy-Royal riding in the 2015 federal election, and also made a failed bid as an NDP candidate in Ontario’s 2014 provincial election while she was living in Ottawa.
McKenzie, who has three adult children, lives in a house purchased in St. Martin, N.B., a decade ago.