Cape Bre­ton protest vote had ef­fect on the elec­tion

Many fresh faces will be head­ing to Hal­i­fax

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NANCY KING

The re­sult of Tues­day’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion was very much a Cape Bre­ton story as vot­ers looked to lodge a protest vote against Stephen McNeil’s Lib­er­als, a Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist says.

Tom Ur­ba­niak was re­act­ing to re­turns that saw the Lib­eral vote on the is­land eroded, with even seats gen­er­ally con­sid­ered safe Lib­eral seats — for ex­am­ple in 2013 Geoff MacLel­lan was elected in Glace Bay with about 80 per cent of the vote but he was given a scare by the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives’ John White — in play.

“It’s a sol­i­dar­ity story, where I think Cape Bre­ton­ers looked at a mes­sage that said build­ing on a stronger Nova Sco­tia and they said, ‘where is the stronger Nova Sco­tia, we’re not see­ing it here,’” he said. “Notwith­stand­ing the power of in­cum­bency in Cape Bre­ton and the loy­alty to in­di­vid­ual MLAs and even re­spect for in­di­vid­ual MLAs, many Cape Bre­ton­ers said that they wanted to park a pro­tect vote.”

Some of the rid­ings re­mained too close by call by the Cape Bre­ton Post’s mid­night dead­line.

The labour move­ment also likely played a key role in the re­sults, Ur­ba­niak said, par­tic­u­larly in light of the on­go­ing con­tract dis­pute with teach­ers. The con­tin­ued de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of many Cape Bre­ton com­mu­ni­ties also likely played into the re­sults.

“Cape Bre­ton has is­sued a wakeup call to the Lib­eral govern­ment and all Cape Bre­ton­ers should prob­a­bly hope that that wakeup vote will be reg­is­tered and that there will be some se­ri­ous at­ten­tion and some se­ri­ous di­a­logue with Cape Bre­ton com­mu­ni­ties about a new strat­egy and a new ap­proach go­ing for­ward.

In re­cent weeks health care and con­cerns over doc­tor shortages have dom­i­nated head­lines in Cape Bre­ton, with doc­tors who aren’t nor­mally pub­licly po­lit­i­cally en­gaged speak­ing out about changes in­sti­tuted un­der the Lib­er­als.

Dr. Jeanne Fer­gu­son, a ge­ri­atric psy­chi­a­trist, said in an in­ter­view as re­sults con­tinue to come in that she be­lieves health care was one of the defin­ing is­sues of the elec­tion.

“I think it was in­evitable … there are con­cerns com­ing from all over now which re­ally re­flects what we’re see­ing in Cape Bre­ton, we’re just a lit­tle ahead of the curve in some ways,” she said.

With only a cou­ple of weeks to go in the cam­paign, hun­dreds of peo­ple packed the Me­mo­rial High gym­na­sium, with a stand­ing-room-only crowd at­tend­ing a doc­tor-led rally. Doc­tors held an­other event Friday at the Health Park in Syd­ney, which at­tracted a num­ber of can­di­dates of all po­lit­i­cal stripes. Doc­tors have said the move by the McNeil Lib­er­als to cen­tral­ize ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­sulted in the lo­cal voice be­ing lost.

“I think health care is such an im­por­tant is­sue for most Nova Sco­tians,” Fer­gu­son said. “The Lib­eral govern­ment was re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing in the Nova Sco­tia Health Author­ity and I think that’s largely proven to be un­sat­is­fac­tory, or cer­tainly not meet­ing the needs. I think that’s per­haps caused some of what we’re see­ing tonight.”

Ur­ba­niak agreed that con­cerns about health care, the im­pact of cen­tral­iza­tion and the lack of ac­cess to fam­ily doc­tors had an im­pact on the re­sults. He noted a re­port that came out mid-cam­paign that painted re­gion­al­iza­tion in a poor light and that said some de­ci­sions were be­ing made based on po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion harmed the McNeil govern­ment.

“It’s re­ally remarkable when it might come down to a sin­gle poll or a re­count,” Ur­ba­niak said.

If the mi­nor­ity govern­ment sta­tus stands, Cape Bre­ton will be the piv­otal cause for it, Ur­ba­niak said, pre­dict­ing that mes­sage will not be lost. He added he ex­pects MacLel­lan to con­tinue to play an im­por­tant in cabi­net and will likely be charged with re­build­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the party and Cape Bre­ton.

MacLel­lan and Michel Sam­son in par­tic­u­lar were high­pro­file mem­bers of the McNeil cabi­net, of­ten called upon to de­liver key govern­ment mes­sages and they both lost con­sid­er­able sup­port from prior con­tests.

“Geoff MacLel­lan is some­one who is in tune with con­stituents and will likely re­flect hard on all of the fac­tors … he may be well-po­si­tioned to help Stephen McNeil re­cal­i­brate his poli­cies and ap­proach when it comes to Cape Bre­ton,” Ur­ba­niak said.

The strength of women can­di­dates in the Cape Bre­ton re­turns was also no­table. Ur­ba­niak noted province-wide there are many fresh faces head­ing to Hal­i­fax.

Sam­son’s re­sults in Cape Bre­ton-Rich­mond were par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing, Ur­ba­niak said. At 19 years, Sam­son had the long­est cur­rent un­bro­ken streak as MLA, hav­ing first been elected at age 25 and was chal­lenged by a po­lit­i­cal new­comer in the PC’s Alana Paon.

Ur­ba­niak said he will be in­ter­ested to see the poll-by-poll re­sults for that rid­ing to see if Sam­son main­tained his sup­port in Isle Madame and whether the por­tions of the rid­ing adding in the last redis­tri­bu­tion harmed him. Rich­mond last elected a Tory provin­cially in 1984.

NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Vot­ers line up to cast their bal­lots for their can­di­date of choice in Syd­ney River-Mira-Louis­bourg rid­ing at the East Bay Le­gion in Howie Cen­tre on Tues­day. The lineup be­gan to form around 4 p.m., when many vot­ers got off work for the day.

Ur­ba­niak

Fer­gu­son

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