The race is on
Three candidates vying for Cape Breton Centre seat in July 14 byelection
Three candidates will attempt to win the Cape Breton Centre seat in the July 14 provincial byelection.
Health care, the economy and seniors’ issues are among the main concerns being raised at the doorstep as the three candidates vying to represent Cape Breton Centre make their way across the district in advance of the coming byelection.
In 2012, when provincial electoral boundaries were redrawn, Cape Breton Centre expanded southwest toward Sydney to include South Bar, Lingan Road and part of Grand Lake Road areas from the former Cape Breton Nova.
The district includes the town of New Waterford, as well as Reserve Mines and a part of the town of Dominion, and has a rich mining history, which ended with the closure of the Phalen Mine in 1999.
Former deputy premier Frank Corbett had held the riding for the NDP since 1998.
The PC’s Edna Lee said her work as a community advocate led her to try her hand at politics, first in 2013 when she placed third in Cape Breton Centre, and again in the coming byelection. She added she is motivated by her love of people and her community.
“I have years of experience as an advocate that led me through all levels of government on policy,” she said. “From that, I developed a keen interest in policy and how it affects people.”
Being an elected official puts you at the table where those policy decisions are being made and your voice can be heard, Lee added.
The lack of jobs and associated outmigration is likely the biggest single issue facing the riding, she said, with other significant concerns being health care and high levels of child poverty.
Having meaningful employment is a determinant for many of those other aspects of life, Lee noted.
“Our economy needs to be renewed,” she said. “It’s very important for government partners on all levels to provide that environment that will encourage new business to set up shop in Cape Breton, if we’re going to move forward.”
There is great hope for possible port and marine terminal development, Lee said, adding she supports natural resource development while also protecting the environment. Frequent emergency room closures, doctor shortages and the poor state of seniors’ housing must also be addressed, she said.
Tammy Martin is a first-time candidate, with experience as a union leader.
“I have lots of experience try- ing to help people and standing up for what’s right for workers, so I figure this was the next step for me,” she said.
She added that she disagrees with many of the actions she sees being taken by the Stephen McNeil Liberal government and wants to do something about it.
“The job loss that we see in health care, the drastic cuts to seniors with their home care and the social programs and the lack of jobs he’s promised for Cape Breton,” Martin added, when asked specifically what she takes issue with.
“We need to stand up and defend Nova Scotia, particularly Cape Breton Centre.”
Health care is raised as a concern at nearly every doorstep, she said, adding she wants to be a voice to stand up and defend the middle class and the vulnerable.
Martin said she wants to ensure measures taken by the NDP when they were in power — such as increasing minimum wage and income assistance, opening new long-term care beds while the McNeil government has placed a moratorium on them — are built upon.
“It’s quite emotional some days because when I walk in this office to see the marks that we’re getting from the phone callers the night before and the canvassers and the signs that are out and the people phoning in offering to do whatever,” she said. “It’s overwhelming.”
Martin noted that soon many health-care workers will be going in to bargaining, and she is concerned about potential contracting out of food services in health facilities.
“When you don’t pay benefits, you don’t pay a good wage, then the lack of training and quality that you receive from these underpaid, under-valued workers goes down,” she said.
While he didn’t win in his first foray into politics in 2013, Liberal David Wilton came within 158 votes of dethroning Corbett. The businessman hopes to grow on that support in this campaign.
“I feel I have a lot to offer Cape Breton Centre, I want to see New Waterford and area strive again for more employment,” he said.
The Breton Education Centre will be replaced, Wilton noted, adding he wants to ensure the community gets all of the features it needs in a new school.
Wilton said he would like to see better development of the Dominion sandbar and wants to see the Liberals add to what was done there previously by the former NDP government.
The fate of the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital is on many minds, Wilton said.
“We’re running into a position now with a shortage of doctors, in the next few years we have some leaving and we certainly have to look at those issues,” he said.
The future of home care is also a significant concern for voters, and Wilton said he’s been assuring people that it will not be privatized and the Liberals have invested more in home care.
“More people are using the system because there’s more people retiring and they need the help,” he said. “The government certainly agrees that the best place for seniors is in their homes, not in hospitals.”
Wilton acknowledged that the McNeil government has had to make some difficult decisions that may not be popular with everyone.
“I think Stephen McNeil has done a tremendous job in doing what’s needed for the communities and for the elderly,” he said. “He did the best he could do with the moneys that are there.”
Increasing local employment and stemming the tide of outmigration are also key to the riding’s future, Wilton said.
The byelection will be held July 14.
“It’s quite emotional some days because when I walk in this office to see the marks that we’re getting from the phone callers the night before and the canvassers and the signs that are out and the people phoning in offering to do whatever.It’s overwhelming.” Tammy Martin “Our economy needs to be renewed.It’s very important for government partners on all levels to provide that environment that will encourage new business to set up shop in Cape Breton, if we’re going to move forward.”
Edna Lee “More people are using the system because there’s more people retiring and they need the help.The government certainly agrees that the best place for seniors is in their homes, not in hospitals.” David Wilton