Halifax Needham candidates all have their challenges

Voters in the district of Halifax Needham head to the polls next week and all of the candidates face challenges going into the vote.

Just finding people at home in the summer can be a tall order

These are the three major party candidates in the Halifax Needham byelection: Lisa Roberts (NDP), Andy Arsenault (Progressive Conservatives) and Rod Wilson (Liberals). (CBC)

When people look back on the campaign for a new MLA in Halifax Needham, it might go down as the byelection of challenges.

There is the challenge every candidate deals with in a byelection, where voter turnout is typically low and fewer people pay attention than for a general vote. There is the challenge of a vote at the end of the summer.

And each of the four candidates face their own individual challenges while trying to sell themselves as the new representative for the area in the legislature.

Film tax credit

Rod Wilson carries the Liberal banner in the Halifax Needham byelection. (CBC)

Campaigning for the Liberals, Rod Wilson is going door to door in an area heavily populated with people involved in the film industry and asking them to support a party that not long ago gutted the film tax credit, driving the industry into crisis.

But the family doctor hasn't shied away from the issue.

"The best conversations I'm having [are] with people in the film industry," he said.

Most people just want him to know about the challenges they're facing and what they think needs to change, said Wilson. He's seeing a lot of optimism from people as work begins to ramp up again, although he admits that a few people he meets "want the Liberal government to go away."

He's also hearing plenty about the need for more affordable housing, support for seniors and family doctors. As a doctor who's served the community for about 19 years, Wilson said he's particularly well suited to work on the latter two issues.

Lisa Roberts is the NDP candidate in the Halifax Needham byelection. (CBC)

3rd place party

As the NDP candidate, Lisa Roberts could be seen as well positioned going into next week's vote because the party has held the district since recently retired MLA Maureen MacDonald was first elected in 1998.

But Roberts, the executive director at Veith House and a former CBC Radio employee, is running at a time when the party is mired in third place and its new leader, Gary Burrill, is still trying to build recognition.

Roberts said she isn't deterred and she believes in Burrill. She also thinks people would be well served to keep the district in the hands of an opposition party.

"You can raise those concerns in public that are being raised to me at the doorstep," she said.

"I think a government MLA — be it someone who's in cabinet or someone who's just in the caucus, is working internal channels — but may be constrained if they're not getting satisfaction there."

Andy Arsenault is running for the Tories in Halifax Needham. (CBC)

Historically poor riding for PCs

Andy Arsenault also thinks Halifax Needham needs a member in the opposition, but the Tory thinks it's time voters switched from orange to blue.

That's no small order. The Tories have finished third in this district in six of the last eight elections. Still, Arsenault believes voters here think candidate first and party second, and he believes his time as a police officer and his familiarity with seniors' issues would serve him well as a representative.

Like the others, Arsenault said a need for doctors, care for seniors and support for the film industry top the concerns he's hearing.

"I'm constantly meeting people at the doors that are having difficult now that their film life has ended and they're trying to find employment."

Leadership issues

Perhaps the greatest challenge for any candidate in the byelection falls to Thomas Trappenberg, running for the Green Party.

The provincial party has been challenged lately with the abrupt departure of its leader and has struggled to garner much more than two per cent of the vote in any election in Nova Scotia.

Thomas Trappenberg is running for the Green Party in Halifax Needham. (Greenparty.ca)