Will Skabar hold Cumberland North for NDP, can Baillie repeat in Cumberland South?
Six candidates hope to secure two seats in Cumberland County.
AMHERST – And they’re off.
After several months of campaigning unofficially, Cumberland County’s six declared candidates have hit the trail trying to secure enough votes to represent the area’s two ridings in Halifax in early October.
Premier Darrell Dexter ended several weeks of furious speculation over the weekend when he dissolved his majority government after four years and set Oct. 8 as the date of the next provincial election.
“I’ve been out campaigning pretty hard unofficially for the last three months, it’s nice to be doing it for real,” said incumbent Cumberland North NDP candidate Brian Skabar.
Skabar shocked the political world locally four years ago when he became the first ever NDP MLA for Cumberland North. He’s out to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
“On a personal level I want to prove it wasn’t a fluke last time. There were a number of factors in 2009 that are a lot different now, one of which it’s a lot easier to attack a government than defend it. But, I’m absolutely of the belief that we’ve done as good a job as could be done under the circumstances.”
The former federal civil servant with Health Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs, Skabar sees several issues as being key in the riding. One of the biggest issues to him is health-care administration. He fears a Liberal or Conservative government would take decision-making out of Cumberland County and move it to Halifax.
“It would be a travesty of the Cumberland Health Authority was collapsed into a single or two health authorites in Halifax,” Skabar said. “I hate it when jobs move to Truro or Halifax and this would be another case of this. I also don’t think health care would be well served being run out of Halifax.”
He’s also a big supporter of the proposed Maritime Link project that would see hydroelectric power taken from Muskrat Falls in Labrador to Nova Scotia through an undersea cable.
Terry Farrell hopes to become the first Liberal to win the riding since the late Ross Bragg in 1993.
Farrell, a lawyer with Hicks-LeMoine, sees power rates as the biggest issue in the riding.
“Power rates have gone up 30 per cent in the last several years, but people’s incomes haven’t gone up. It’s something that I’m hearing at almost every place I stop,” Farrell said.
The other big issues is jobs. He said the government has given too much money to big corporations while not focusing on small business.
He also said he considers himself the only local candidate in that he was born and raised in Amherst.
“I am a local candidate, having been born here and living 40 of my 52 years here,” he said.
Judi Giroux hopes to return the riding to the Conservative fold. Giroux, who is on a leave of absence from her job as MP Scott Armstrong's constituency assistant, said she’s familiar with the issues and has spent more than a year crisscrossing the riding listening to what the voters have to say.
She said the state of the roads is the biggest issue she’s hearing.
“The roads are in terrible shape. I’d say four of five people I talk to are complaining about the road,” she said. “We’re so far behind with our paving.”
The economy is also a big issue. Giroux said government needs to stop the flow of Nova Scotians of all ages to jobs and opportunity in Alberta.
“It’s not just young people,” she said. “I was talking to a man who is 57. He told me he’s been going back and forth out west for 10 years now because there is no job here for him.”
In Cumberland South, it will be a rematch of the 2010 byelection when PC Party leader Jamie Baillie defeated Liberal Kenny John Jackson to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of longtime MLA and cabinet minister Murray Scott.
Larry Duchese, who was the leader of the NDP on Prince Edward Island, is representing the party this time.
Baillie said one of the biggest local issues to him is the ongoing delays with the renovation at River Hebert District High School.
“My Number 1 priority in Cumberland South is getting that school done. With that project completed we’ll have the infrastructure in place to attract new families,” Baillie said.
The PC leader said he’s pleased that he was able to convince government to finish the Lower Maccan Road and replace the Springhill Junction Bridge, there’s more to do.
As much as River Hebert’s school is an issue, Baillie is also worried for the future of Wentworth Elementary and the slow pace of renovations at Springhill High.
Jackson is concerned about the future of health-care in Cumberland South and is worried about the high cost of power rates.
“If I’m elected I’ll make a push for greater use of tidal power from the Bay of Fundy and I’ll be pushing to have the repair work done locally instead of sending it to another part of Canada,” Jackson said. “That will create local jobs here.”
Jackson said he has been campaigning non-stop since the 2010 byelection and feels he has been the person people in the riding call for help.
“I’ve stuck with it and dealt with several issues that should have been dealt with by our MLA,” Jackson said. “People know they can call me at any hour of the day or night and I’ll help them.”
As MLA, Jackson said he would look after the riding and let Stephen McNeil look after the province.
Like Baillie, Duchesne sees River Hebert’s school situation as being a pivotal issue.
He also said it would be nice to have an NDP MLA on the government side of the legislature.
The Green Party and the Atlantica Party have yet to nominate candidates in either riding.