RIDING PROFILE

Dartmouth East — the open seat everyone wants

Independent Andrew Younger, who won the riding during the last provincial election with the Liberals, predicts the Tories or the NDP will win the seat.

Independent Andrew Younger, who most recently held the riding, is not reoffering this election

View of Main Street in the riding of Dartmouth East. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Editor's Note: NDP candidate Bill McEwen dropped out of the Dartmouth East race on May 15, 2017, citing "inappropriate statements I made and supported in the past."

Instead of knocking on doors, Andrew Younger is spending his days in shorts and a T-shirt packing up his MLA office on Tacoma Drive in Dartmouth and predicting doom for his former party in Dartmouth East — a seat he won as a Liberal with 64 per cent of the vote in the last election.

"In this riding, I see a tight race between the NDP and the Tories with the Liberals a distant third," said Younger.

Younger blames the unpopularity of Stephen McNeil, his government's handling of the provincial teachers' contract and axing of the Nova Scotia film tax credit.

Given that McNeil fired him from cabinet, Younger's handicapping of the race should be taken with a grain of salt.

There's no doubt, though, that his abrupt decision to withdraw as an independent candidate for personal reasons has thrown Dartmouth East upside down and wide open.

Clearly recognizing that whoever gets his votes will decide the outcome, none of the contenders to replace him said a bad word about Younger.

PC candidate's dying wife blessed his run

In a riding already simmering with drama, Progressive Conservative candidate Tim Halman is trying to triumph over adversity in every sense imaginable.

Shortly after Halman, a teacher, was nominated for the Tories, his wife Ginette Thibault-Halman was diagnosed with breast cancer that progressed rapidly.

She died in March at age 43, just five months after being diagnosed, leaving behind her husband and two daughters.

The Dartmouth East PC candidate is Tim Halman. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Halman said he and his wife agreed he would carry on to show his children and his students "that no matter what you have to pick yourself up."

"After my wife had passed, I knew I had to get back to work. It dawned on me I could go back and teach or I could go back and try to fix the classroom. And I chose to try and fix the classroom," he said.

His sense of humour hasn't deserted him. The Tories picked up just 13 per cent of the vote in the last election.

"Based on those numbers, I don't think my opponents could accuse me of being an opportunist."

New Democrats hope to recapture seat

The New Democrats held the seat before Younger took it from them in 2009, an election that produced an NDP majority government.

The NDP candidate for Dartmouth East is Bill McEwen. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Candidate Bill McEwen is pitching the NDP campaign basics in 2017: a promise for a $15 an hour minimum wage, free community college and a dose of Stephen McNeil-is-the-bad-guy.

"A lot of people are saying we don't want McNeil," said McEwen, who works as an information technology consultant in a large cancer study.

His economic policy is old school-left.

"I think we need to see a big shift  in our political culture to where we see investment in health care, education and other government services as what will trigger the economic boom that trickle-down economics has failed to deliver on," he said.

"I think the NDP under Gary Burrill represent that breath of fresh air we need to see."

Liberals send out 28-year-old articling clerk

The youngest candidate for the major parties is 28-year-old Liberal Edgar Burns, an articling clerk at the Dartmouth law firm BoyneClarke.

Edgar Burns is the Liberal candidate for Dartmouth East. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

During an interview Burns said repeatedly that voters he meets are enthusiastic about a young person engaged in the political process.

"For me, and why I'm such a big fan of Stephen McNeil, is he is willing to make tough choices to keep our financial house in order and that's what enables us to make investments that are priorities for Nova Scotians such as keeping young Nova Scotians in the province," Burns said.

Green candidate 

The Green party is making a return to Dartmouth East, having not run a candidate in 2013.

The party gathered two per cent of the vote in 2009.

Mathew Richey is running for the Green Party.

Last word to Younger

As for Andrew Younger, he said McNeil is a drag on the Liberals but neither PC Leader Jamie Baillie nor Burrill have captured the public imagination.

"You can't go door to door with McNeil and have your vote go up, but I'm not sure you can do that with Burrill or Baillie either so it's going to come down to the personal appeal of the candidates," he said.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.