Nova Scotia·RIDING PROFILE

Canada election 2015: West Nova and what's at stake

The riding of West Nova has a history of swinging from Liberal red to Conservative blue and back again. And political scientist Jim Bickerton predicts another party change come Oct. 19.

Riding is a bellwether, says political scientist Jim Bickerton

The candidates for West Nova include, from left, Greg Foster (New Democrat) Colin Fraser (Liberal), Arnold LeBlanc (Conservative) and Clark Walton (Green). (NDP, Liberal Party, Conservative Party, Green Party)

The riding of West Nova has a history of swinging from Liberal red to Conservative blue and back again.

And political scientist Jim Bickerton predicts another party change come Oct. 19.

"When you look at the history of that riding, it's very much a bellwether," Bickerton said in a recent interview, referring to a riding that indicates a trend.

"The tide is running against the Conservatives."

Not only has West Nova swung between two parties, in recent elections it has also switched between the same two candidates.

'Swing back and forth'

In 2006, incumbent Liberal Robert Thibault, who had served as minister for the the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency as well as minister of fisheries and oceans, defeated Conservative Greg Kerr by 511 votes.

In the 2008 vote, it was Kerr's turn to win, defeating Thibault by 1,594 votes. And in 2011, Kerr widened his margin of victory over Thibault by 4,494 votes.

"I don't think the NDP has ever been a factor in that riding and that's helped that kind of swing back and forth," Bickerton said.

Kerr, who was also a Buchanan-era cabinet minister, announced in April 2014 he was not re-offering for health reasons. He suffered a stroke in January 2013.

The Conservative candidate is Arnold LeBlanc, who had served as Kerr's regional executive assistant since 2008.

The Liberals are running Yarmouth lawyer Colin Fraser while the Green candidate is Clark Walton, a retired avionics technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The New Democrats are running Greg Foster.

Lack of high-profile candidate won't help

The largely rural riding contains Yarmouth, Digby and Annapolis counties as well as a small part of Kings County. Its centres include Yarmouth, Middleton, Digby, Bridgetown, Annapolis Royal and Berwick. The riding had been known as South West Nova until the addition of Seal Island in 1996.

Bickerton said when it comes to bellwether ridings, the candidate usually isn't the primary factor in outcome.

But he said Conservative chances certainly aren't helped by the lack of a high-profile candidate such as Kerr. Conservatives in Nova Scotia were "never particularly strong" since the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives, Bickerton said.

"It's because the party doesn't have a strong element of Progressive Conservatism," he said.

The largely rural riding of West Nova contains Yarmouth, Digby and Annapolis counties as well as a small part of Kings County. Its centres include Yarmouth, Middleton, Digby, Bridgetown, Annapolis Royal and Berwick. (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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