AMHERST – The acclamation of Brian Skabar as the NDP candidate for Cumberland North in the next provincial election was a given even before last nights nomination meeting began at the Knights of Pythias Hall in Amherst.
But after his acclamation, Skabar, who is the Cumberland North MLA, gave thanks to his constituents.
“This was the seat initially held by Sir Charles Tupper and now Brian Skabar. Imagine that,” he said. “I am awed that people in Cumberland North have put their confidence in me to represent them in the Nova Scotia house of assembly, and I take my responsibilities seriously.”
He then give clues as to his talking points in the next election, which could be very soon.
“There’s been a couple of platform reviews already,” said Skabar when speaking about his party’s platform in the next election. “Probably within the next month or so they’ll be narrowing that down to what they are actually going to focus on…”
Skabar focused on education, Irving shipbuilding, NSCC, and cross-border shopping during the meeting.
“The education budget was cut by 1.5 per cent even though the student population fell by 1.78 per cent,” said Skabar. “There’s still more money being spent per-student than ever before.”
Skabar said he was initially skeptical of the grants given to Irving Shipbuilding but came around to see the importance of the jobs that are going to be created.
“We’re giving Irving $227 million to help them build those ships,” said Skabar. “I had a really, really hard time with that.”
Skabar said when he was young he worked on the railways and said he believes in, and supports, the labour movement.
After graduating from university, instead of pursuing post-graduate work, Skabar worked for one year with ‘Indian Affairs’ in Thompson, Manitoba.
“I paid more income tax that year than did Shell Canada and, not only that, Shell Canada got part of my income tax,” said Skabar during last night’s meeting. “That’s about the same time (former Federal NDP leader) Ed Broadbent started talking about corporate welfare bums, and (asking) why is the government of Canada giving hundreds of millions of dollars to multi-national companies, while an entry level student is paying more than a multi-national corporation.”
Fast-forward 40 years later to the nomination office last night and Skabar said what turned him around was a young couple in their mid-twenties who, with their young child, visited his office in Amherst and are struggling to get by.
“They are doing everything they’re supposed to be doing, and it would be hard for me to explain to them if that shipbuilding contract went to the shipyard in Montreal because their government gave them enough money to take that contract,” said Skabar.
Skabar said changing his mind on grants to Irving Shipbuilding was ‘one of the hardest decisions I had to make.’
“But we’ll be getting that money back, and more,” said Skabar. “The whole GDP of Nova Scotia will increase by 2.3 per cent once we get the project going full-bore.”
Skabar said Nova Scotia is ‘on the cusp of big things,’ including Cumberland North.
– PUGWASH HOSPITAL
“The new hospital in Pugwash is a done deal,” said Skabar. “$2.5 million has already been identified for the design and engineering work on that.
“The Nova Scotia Community College in Amherst is going to be expanding,” he added. “There are going to be some announcements on that… The Amherst campus of NSCC is going to be expanding by a considerable measure. Formal announcements should be made in the spring.”
Skabar said the expansion would not come at the expense of NSCC in Springhill.
“This is not, by the way, poaching from NSCC in Springhill,” he said.
Skabar said, with the exception of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Cumberland County is one of only two counties in the province expanding, ‘with more jobs and employment now than four years ago.’
“LED (Roadway Lighting) hired more than 100 people in the last 12 months,” said Skabar.
He also talked about expansions at PollyCello made possible with a $1 million grant from the provincial government.
– CROSS BORDER SHOPPING
A hot topic during the 2009 provincial election was cross-border shopping, and the topic could get hot again during the next election.
Skabar said the advantages of living on the border far surpass the disadvantages.
“Yes, people shop in Moncton. They’ve always shopped in Moncton. Moncton has a nice big mall,” said Skabar. “But let’s make no mistake about it, Amherst and area is, by far, the beneficiary of cross-border shopping.”
Asked what he bases his assessment upon, Skabar said anybody who looks at cars in the parking lots in Amherst mall parking lots will see many cars from New Brunswick.
“At Christmastime, take a look at the parking lots in any of the malls. A full third of them are New Brunswick plates coming in,” he said.
- NEXT ELECTION
Skabar said he’s confident the NDP will form the next government.
“I think we are doing better with the New Democratic government under Darrell Dexter than we would have, certainly, under (former premier) Rodney MacDonald,” said Skabar. “Nova Scotia was not well served by the MacDonald government. Rodney was not a good premier. People are starting to forget that a little bit.”
And what about his Cumberland North opponents, the Progressive Conservative's Judi Giroux and the Liberal’s Terry Farrell?
“Judi and Terry are credible candidates and it’s going to be close,” said Skabar. “I’m certainly not over-confident but I’m confident the people of Cumberland North are going to give the New Democrats another chance.”