SPRINGHILL – If there’s one thing that has voters stirred up in Cumberland South, it’s the state of health care in the riding amid doctor shortages and numerous ER closures at hospitals in Springhill and Parrsboro.
“It’s something that everyone is talking about, and it’s an issue that’s at the top of everyone’s mind,” retired Anglican minister Frank Likely said Monday. “All the candidates are talking about it as the biggest issue, but no one is really saying what they’re going to do about it.”
Just under 11,000 voters are eligible to cast ballots in Tuesday’s by-election that will replace former MLA and PC leader Jamie Baillie, who resigned abruptly earlier this year amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
There are four candidates vying for the seat including former Oxford fire chief Tory Rushton, who’s representing the Progressive Conservatives; Liberal Scott Lockhart, who was at one time president of the Cumberland South PC Association; New Democrat Larry Duchesne, who writes for an online news service based in Pugwash and Bruce McCulloch of the Green Party, who ran unsuccessfully for the party in 2013.
Likely, who said he has yet to decide who to vote for on Tuesday, believes the vote will be closer than many think. He feels it could come down to who people think has the strongest personality to represent their concerns in Halifax.
That’s especially true when it comes to health care.
“What we need is someone who is not afraid to speak their mind in the legislature and is not scared to stand up and stomp their feet and make the most noise every time there’s an ER closure,” said Likely, who also writes a column for The Citizen-Record. “I think that’s who the people are looking for.”
Lockhart feels good about his campaign, saying he has knocked on more than 3,000 doors and worn out at least one pair of shoes.
“I’ve been to places and met a lot of people who said they have never been approached by a politician since Guy Brown,” he said. “I’ve had a great response at the door and for everyone negative response I get there are 20 positive ones.”
Lockhart said he is asking the voters to take a chance on him for the next three years and pointed out if he’s elected he will be a member of the government caucus. He said that will allow him to better address issues in the riding, such as health care.
“You know at the end the three years that’s left in the mandate if I haven’t done my job then the people can get rid of me,” Lockhart said. “I think from the campaign people have seen how hard I’m willing to work for them.
“On Wednesday, the government will still be the government and if I’m elected I’ll be a member of that government. I’m not saying I have the fix, but I’m willing to work with people to find solutions as opposed to complaining about everything and having no solutions.”
Lockhart wants to have a health fair at the high school to entice students to consider a medical career, either as a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner or technician.
Rushton is running in a riding that’s traditionally voted PC under Murray Scott and Baillie. He doesn't want his supporters to take anything for granted.
“Health care is big, but so is education and, depending on where you live in the riding, roads,” Rushton said. “A lot of people in this area don’t have a family doctor or their doctor is leaving soon. There are constant ER closures and it’s wearing on people. People are very concerned about this.”
Rushton said he has been working hard at getting elected since his nomination in early March. He feels very positive going into the final day, but knows it’s a strong slate of candidates.
“Every vote counts and we have to get everyone out to the polls,” Rushton said. “If I’m elected I will be in opposition, but I will be a critic and be able to speak a lot in the legislature, more than someone who will be on the government back benches. I will be the voice for Cumberland South and build relationships with the ministers and MLAs and represent the riding.”
Duchesne, a former leader of the NDP on P.E.I., is confident he will increase his party’s vote. He said people have told him how unhappy they are with the government’s record on health care.
“People are more engaged with us than they would’ve been in previous elections. That’s a good sign,” Duchesne said. “You can tell people are upset with what the government has done, or not done, on health care and the continued ER closures and the lack of doctors.”
McCulloch is hoping enough people will appreciate an alternate view of government and choose to vote Green. It’s a party that continues to make gains in public opinion and now has two MLAs on Prince Edward Island, one in New Brunswick and another in Ontario.
“We’re a fiscally conservative party that’s socially progressive and we have some ideas that we’re quite willing to share,” McCulloch said. “We’re hoping people will consider an alternative approach to government. Their voice would show the start of a green wave in Nova Scotia.”
The Liberals presently have a four-seat majority in the legislature, holding 27 of the 50 seats with the Progressive Conservatives holding 16 and the NDP seven. If the Conservatives or NDP win, it will reduce the majority to three.
Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
People must vote at their designated poll that’s listed on the voter information card that came in a yellow envelope. Those with a card, must also bring an acceptable ID when they vote.
Those without a voter information card can still vote. They can register when they go to vote. To find out where they vote, enter an address from a computer or smartphone at https://enstools.gov.ns.ca/edinfo2012/Location.aspx.
For more information, go to https://electionsnovascotia.ca/CumberlandSouth2018 .