Nova Scotia·RIDING PROFILE

Canada election 2015: Cumberland-Colchester and what's at stake

Former teammates — and now rivals — are squaring off in the race to win Cumberland-Colchester.

Conservatives have to contend with 'the Bill Casey factor,' says political scientist Jim Bickerton

The candidates for Cumberland-Colchester include, from left, Scott Armstrong (Conservative), Jason Blanch (Green), Bill Casey (Liberal), Kenneth Jackson (Independent) and Wendy Robinson (New Democrat). (The Canadian Press, Green Party, The Canadian Press, Submitted by Kenneth Jackson, NDP)

Former teammates — and now rivals — are squaring off in the race to win Cumberland-Colchester.

Bill Casey announced last November he wanted to be the Liberal candidate for his former riding — to the surprise of Scott Armstrong, the Conservative candidate who once served as Casey's campaign manager.

Political scientist Jim Bickerton said under normal circumstances, Cumberland-Colchester would be considered a safe seat for the Conservatives.

"That's their toehold in Nova Scotia," he said in a recent interview.

But now, Bickerton said the party has to contend with "the Bill Casey factor."

Casey is "a local hero for many people," Bickerton said. "That could be enough to make life difficult for Scott Armstrong."

Returning candidates

Wendy Robinson, the mayor of Stewiacke, is once again running for the New Democratic Party. She came second in the 2011 vote with about 23 per cent of the vote. Jason Blanch, a counsellor and organic farmer, is returning as a candidate for the Green Party.

Kenneth Jackson, who is running as an Independent, is allowing voters the ability to develop their own platforms.

Bickerton said it is Casey that the Conservatives should be worried about.

Casey was the Conservative MP for the area until 2007, when he was kicked out of Stephen Harper's caucus for voting against the federal budget.

His reason? Casey said the budget broke the Atlantic Accord with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. He said that meant Nova Scotia would not fully benefit from offshore oil and gas revenues without losing equalization payments from Ottawa.

Casey ran as an independent and won in 2008. He retired in 2009 to take a public sector job as Nova Scotia's representative at the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs in Ottawa.

'Another conundrum'

That's when Armstrong, a former elementary school principal, stepped in and won a November 2009 byelection. He won again in the 2011 general election, that time with more than 52 per cent of the vote.

Cumberland-Colchester is a predominantly rural riding that runs along the border with New Brunswick. As its name indicates, it consists of Cumberland and Colchester counties. Amherst, Truro, Springhill and the Millbrook First Nation all fall within its boundaries.

Casey has said he wants to return to politics as a Liberal because that party reflects his beliefs and the Progressive Conservative party he was originally elected under no longer exists.

As a Conservative and an independent, Casey won by large margins. But the question now is, will Cumberland-Colchester voters stick to their largely Conservative roots or return their loyalty to Casey?

"Another conundrum," said Bickerton.

Cumberland-Colchester is a predominantly rural riding that runs along the border with New Brunswick. As its name indicates, it consists of Cumberland and Colchester counties. Amherst, Truro, Springhill and the Millbrook First Nation all fall within its boundaries. (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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