Change in the air
Three candidates try for the Sydney-Whitney Pier seat in July 14 byelection.
Editor’s note: See Wednesday's Cape Breton Post for a story on the upcoming Cape Breton Centre byelection.
Regardless of who wins the seat on July 14, political change is coming to the riding of Sydney-Whitney Pier.
The riding was created in advance of the 2013 general election, by combining 79 per cent of the former district of Cape Breton Nova — held for several terms by the NDP’s Gordie Gosse — and 59 per cent of the former Liberal stronghold of Cape Breton South, long held by Manning MacDonald. The urban riding takes in much of the city of Sydney, including the neighbourhood of Whitney Pier and Membertou, First Nation.
The byelection was called following the decision earlier this year by Gosse, who has been battling cancer, to step down.
In the Whitney Pier area, there has been a particular tradition of successful candidates being seen as strong in constituency work.
Madonna Doucette is making her first foray into politics running for the NDP, hoping to follow in Gosse’s footsteps.
An employee of the AIDS Coalition of Cape Breton, Doucette said her increased advocacy work on behalf of that organization influenced her decision to take on a wider challenge.
“I’ve started just being a person who’s not afraid to speak about difficult issues,” she said.
Doucette added she believes it’s important that government be informed by the perspectives of all sectors of the community, and she realized she brings the voice of a single mom and member of the working poor with deep community involvements.
“I kind of had to look at my own self-esteem issues and realize that means that I qualify to do this too, my voice and my perspective matters,” Doucette said.
On the campaign trail, seniors’ issues are a main concern, she said, with worries about the rising cost of living. She noted an increasing number of seniors are still caring for their own parents. The continued flow of young people to other regions of the country is a significant challenge, Doucette added.
“We’re hemorrhaging young people out of Cape Breton,” she said. “If we don’t keep our young people here working and having families and living here in Cape Breton, our seniors aren’t going to have the resources they need.”
She also wants to see a better focus on developing small businesses and the creative economy, especially around loosening up red tape around getting small businesses started.
Brian MacArthur’s interest in politics was spurred by his grandfather, the late Judge Neil R. MacArthur, who ran for the Progressive Conservatives in 1920 and 1933.
“It’s always been a family trait, I’ve always been interested, my father’s always been interested in politics too, interested in giving back to the community,” he said.
In his own first campaign as a PC candidate, MacArthur said people he meets on the doorstep are pleased with his background in business, as operator of the Cape Breton Business College.
“I’ve always been been guided by the values of hard work, integrity and community service,” he said.
MacArthur added he has always had a strong commitment to education.
If elected, he said he would fight for the new Department of Business to set up an office in Sydney, saying it would be an important support for creating jobs in Cape Breton.
“On the doorsteps, people are concerned about jobs and the economy, that’s what it’s all about, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs, trying make it more affordable for families in Cape Breton,” he said.
He added he would also like to work with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality on infrastructure projects, and he believes the government should reverse course in banning onshore natural resource exploration, saying it has had important economic impacts in other provinces.
Derek Mombourquette may be the youngest candidate in the riding, but with some municipal council experience and a previous unsuccessful bid provincially, he has the most political experience under his belt.
The economy is the issue on most voters’ minds, he said, adding they want a party with a plan for future economic development.
Through his work with the Island Sandbox, the Liberal hopeful noted he’s come into contact with many young aspiring entrepreneurs in the technology sector.
“We need a strong private sector to support the many programs that we offer through government,” Mombourquette said.
“They’re not looking for big amounts of money, they’re looking for support, they’re looking for mentorship and that will be a big part of my vision if successful for the riding.
“I believe that we can rebuild our downtown core, I believe that we can attract students that are graduating from these programs to stay here and open their businesses.”
While he understands that there may be some discontent around decisions that the McNeil government has made early in its mandate, he believes that for the most part people understand that there’s some challenging fiscal realities to governing today and they are optimistic that the province has a plan.
Mombourquette is also concerned that adequate support be available for seniors and young families, and he noted that there’s a lot of discussion in the community about what the future holds for certain schools within the riding, with the family of schools process currently underway under the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
The byelection takes place July 14.
“I kind of had to look at my own self- esteem issues and realize that means that I qualify to do this too, my voice and my perspective matters.’’
Madonna Doucette “On the doorsteps, people are concerned about jobs and the economy, that’s what it’s all about, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs, trying make it more affordable for families in Cape Breton.’’
Brian MacArthur “I believe that we can rebuild our downtown core, I believe that we can attract students that are graduating from these programs to stay here and open their businesses.”