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Cumberland South candidates on opposite shores of ‘Pit Pond’

['<p>The annual youth fishing derby put on by the Springhill Police Service takes place this Saturday, May 31, starting at 11 a.m. </p>']
['<p>The annual youth fishing derby put on by the Springhill Police Service takes place this Saturday, May 31, starting at 11 a.m. </p>']

Tempers were somewhat torrid over the cool waters of a local fishing spot here in Springhill, making for a surprise sidetrack during the battle for the Cumberland South riding.

A stone’s throw away from where the Number 2 and Number 4 coal mines used to operate, the colloquially known Pit Pond has been the site for an annual fishing derby since 2008. There have been efforts to enhance the pond and small steps and commitments have been made towards that end.

Who is responsible for what – and whom should be credited – became a sticking point over the weekend for supporters of the two suspected leading candidates for the riding: Liberal Kenny John Jackson and Progressive Conservative leader and incumbent Jamie Baillie.

Money to improve the dam and spillway at the pond was announced in the province’s capital projects in March 2017. At that time, Baillie made an announcement on social media lauding the commitment and expected a request for proposals in the near future.  

More recently, Liberal candidate Kenny John Jackson met with Nova Scotia Business Inc. [NSBI] and prospective bidders on the work to review the site and discuss the needed upgrades.

A public push-and-pull of who should be credited for the project between Baillie and Jackson supporters ensued.

For his part, Jackson is the driving force behind the annual fishing derby. He’s been an advocate for developing the pond into a public park with boardwalk after coming across a composite plan made by one of his relatives, June Jackson, back in 1998. After the initial fishing derby, Jackson says he started lobbying all levels of government to make her vision a reality.

“Every time I have a chance to talk with somebody about it, I do,” Jackson said.

Such a talk took place three years ago when Jackson noticed an NSBI rep scouting the site to determine what work would be needed in the future. Jackson’s knowledge of the dam, history, and drainage made an impression and NSBI and a prospective bidder reached out to Jackson to be present and answer any questions when potential contractors would be present to review the dam and spillway last week.

Pictures were taken and put up on social media. As soon as they did, Jackson was accused of politicking.

“I’m not politicizing this moment,” Jackson said. “ I’ve been working on this for the last 10 years. I talk to anyone that can help this project… everyone in Springhill knows I’ve been working on this project.”

Baillie, who has been the MLA for the area for seven years, says he too has been a champion for the repairs at the pond through normal government channels. Matters of government announcements for the riding fall to the sitting MLA, so when Jackson stepped up to be pictured with the Crown corporation and prospective contractor this month, some in Baillie’s camp felt Jackson politicized an announcement already made in March.

 “Only one person wanted to have their picture taken out there,” Baillie said. “These things are why it’s important to have an MLA who knows how to go through the appropriate channels.”

Baillie didn’t indicate any hard feelings on the issue or the perceived break in decorum, but supporters have shown stronger feelings, going so far as to challenge the funding is a Liberal investment.

Baillie disagrees.

“I take issue describing it as a Liberal capital plan – it’s taxpayers’ money. It’s Nova Scotia’s capital plan,” Baillie said. “That’s why things like this should be announced by representatives.”

With issues of health care, education and the economy always at the forefront of any provincial election, the Pit Pond controversy has made for an interesting distraction, one few expected when the writ was dropped yet revealing how close and personal the fate of a riding can be.

Nova Scotia will choose its next provincial government May 30. Also vying the Cumberland South riding are the NDP’s Larry Duchesne and Atlantica Party member Michael ‘Thor’ Lengies.

Fishing season in the province continues until Sept. 30. Please check with the 2017 Nova Scotia Anglers Handbook for restrictions and bag limits in your area. 

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