Cape Breton Centre byelection likely to be closely contested
About 1,400 votes traditionally separated the NDP and Liberals, but the PCs recently increased their vote
Tuesday's byelection in Cape Breton could be a close contest.
Cape Breton Centre, which includes New Waterford and surrounding areas, has been held by the New Democratic Party for more than 20 years, except for a brief period in 2015.
That year, voters gave Liberal Dave Wilton two years in office after a byelection was held to replace longtime NDP MLA Frank Corbett.
Wilton beat the NDP's Tammy Martin by nearly 600 votes, but in 2017, Martin took it back from him with a nearly 800-vote margin.
Martin recently quit citing health reasons, prompting another byelection.
Kendra Coombes, a Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor who's running for the NDP, said the riding needs a strong voice at the legislature.
"We need people who are willing to fight, willing to stand up for their communities," she said.
The Liberals disrespected the community by announcing the closure of the New Waterford hospital at an announcement in Sydney and by taking away services that won't be available when a new health centre is built to replace it, Coombes said.
"In fact, they still haven't had any public consultation with this community on what is going to be happening at the [Breton Education Centre] site," she said.
The government has said it plans to put the new health-care facility on the school property and will build a new school on adjacent land currently used for soccer and tennis.
Most of the sports facilities are being moved to a nearby location and the soccer field is moving to Colliery Lands Park.
Coombes said she also plans to push for better provincial funding for the municipality, which sends more in taxes to the province for housing, corrections and education than it gets back in an operating grant.
Wilton, who is a local business owner running in his fourth election, said the Liberal government's capital construction plans for new health and education facilities will help him take back the seat.
"What other community has a $240-million investment?" he said. "It's a game changer for us."
Wilton said the construction will bring jobs and boost the local economy and having a seat at the government table will help make sure those projects provide maximum local benefits.
He also said he would push the provincial government to restructure municipal funding to get a better deal that would help CBRM pave roads and add facilities and programs.
The New Waterford rink needs work, Wilton said.
Louie Piovesan, a CBRM public works employee and the Progressive Conservative candidate, said no one should count out the PCs.
He ran in 2017 and more than doubled his party's previous tally.
The other two parties haven't done a lot for the community, Piovesan said, but he thinks it's a three-way race this time.
"I'm hearing it on the street, I'm hearing it in the coffee shops, I'm hearing it on the doorsteps," he said. "I hear change. Change is needed."
Piovesan said he'd like to see hospital services, such as emergency medicine, stay in New Waterford and the area needs more programs and facilities for youth.
Voters are also asking for lower taxes and increased funding for CBRM, he said, and the PC party is working on that.
For the first time in a decade or more, a fourth name is on the ballot.
Adrianna MacKinnon is running for the Green Party, but is not posting signs or knocking on doors.
She said she has a full-time job and can't take time off work.
MacKinnon said she's running to offer voters an alternative to the mainstream parties and she hopes voters will at least consider the Green Party platform.
"It's a party with principles that are close to my soul and my values and I think that it's an opportunity for people to maybe check it out, go on the website, see if there's anything that, maybe, interests people who have disengaged from politics," she said.
In addition to Cape Breton Centre, voters are going to the polls in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River after NDP MLA Lenore Zann resigned last September and became a Liberal MP in October's federal election.
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