Nova Scotia·RIDING PROFILE

Canada election 2015: Cape Breton-Canso and what's at stake

Voters in Cape Breton-Canso have sent Liberal Rodger Cuzner to the House of Commons in five straight elections — and a local political scientist isn't expecting that to change this time around.

Cape Breton University political science professor calls riding one of the safest in the country for Liberals

The candidates for Cape Breton-Canso include, from left, Maria Coady (Green), Rodger Cuzner (Liberal), Adam Rodgers (Conservative) and Michelle Smith (New Democrat). (Green Party, The Canadian Press, Conservative Party, NDP)

Voters in Cape Breton-Canso have sent Liberal Rodger Cuzner to the House of Commons in five straight elections — and a local political scientist isn't expecting that to change this time around.

David Johnson, a political science professor with Cape Breton University, calls this riding and neighbouring Sydney-Victoria — held by Mark Eyking since 2000 — "two of the safest Liberal seats, ridings in the entire country."

"God knows what it would take to unseat either one of them," Johnson said in a recent interview.

So far, three candidates have lined up to take their shot at toppling Cuzner, who won the 2011 election with more than 46 per cent of the vote.

Adam Rodgers, a Port Hawkesbury lawyer and president of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, is carrying the Conservative banner.

Michelle Smith, who operates North Wind Farm in Skye Glen, is running for the New Democratic Party, while Maria Coady is running for the Green Party.

'Forced to leave'

Johnson says employment and outmigration are top of mind for many in the riding, particularly among seasonal workers who are finding it more and more difficult to get employment insurance.

"People feel they are not getting the number of claimable hours and they are forced to leave," Johnson said.

And a lot of that unrest is directed at the prime minister, he said.

"I don't hear anyone saying anything good about Stephen Harper, his leadership style," Johnson said.

But the riding, which takes in Richmond County and parts of Cape Breton, Inverness and Guysborough counties, has not always been a Liberal stronghold.

'Don't get overconfident'

When it was known as Cape Breton-East Richmond, Progressive Conservative Donald MacInnis held the riding for four terms, starting in 1957.

New Democrat Andy Hogan captured two elections in the 1970s and then Liberal David Dingwall was elected in 1980. 

Dingwall, a powerful player in the Chretien cabinet, was defeated in 1997 by relative unknown New Democrat Michelle Dockrill. 

The riding, with a population of 75,247 according to the 2011 census, includes Glace Bay, Inverness, Guysborough and Port Hawkesbury as well as the Whycocomagh and Chapel Island reserves.

This will be one of the longest federal election campaigns in Canadian history, and Cuzner said he is giving his campaign team time to enjoy their summer vacation before hitting the hustings.

But Johnson cautioned the Liberals not to take voters for granted. He said given the length of this campaign, many will expect to see the candidates at their doorsteps at least once.

"The things I'd say to the Liberals — don't get overconfident," he said.

The riding of Cape Breton-Canso includes Glace Bay, Inverness, Guysborough and Port Hawkesbury as well as the Whycocomagh and Chapel Island reserves. (Elections Canada)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending more than a decade as a reporter covering the Nova Scotia legislature, Amy Smith joined CBC News in 2009 as host for CBC Nova Scotia News as well as Atlantic Tonight at 11. She can be reached at amy.smith@cbc.ca or on Twitter @amysmithcbc

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