Nova Scotia

Liberals hold on to Cape Breton as Battiste becomes 1st Mi'kmaw MP

Liberal Mike Kelloway won the riding of Cape Breton-Canso, beating Conservative Alfie MacLeod who resigned his seat as MLA to run. Liberal Jaime Battiste took the riding of Sydney-Victoria, becoming the first Mi'kmaw MP.

Tight races in Cape Breton-Canso and Sydney-Victoria, as Conservatives come in a close second

Liberal Jaime Battiste is shown with supporters Monday night as the vote count shows him pulling ahead of Conservative opponent Eddie Orrell. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

It's been a nail-biter of an election night in Cape Breton. 

Both ridings of Cape Breton-Canso and Sydney-Victoria teetered between the Liberals and Conservatives as the votes were counted Monday night, but the Liberals eventually came out on top. 

Liberal Mike Kelloway won the riding of Cape Breton-Canso, beating Conservative Alfie MacLeod who resigned his seat as a provincial MLA to run.

Jaime Battiste, who ran for the Liberals in Sydney-Victoria, becomes the first Mi'kmaw MP in Canada. He won a close race against Conservative Eddie Orrell, who also resigned his seat in the Nova Scotia legislature to run.

Kelloway congratulated the other candidates on a "fair and honest campaign."

He thanked his team of supporters and his family and said he looked forward to working with all members of the Cape Breton-Canso riding.

"It is important to remember we are still a community, no matter what sign you had on your lawn," he said. 

MacLeod wasn't ready to officially concede until the last votes were counted, despite Kelloway's solid lead of more than 1,000 votes.

Liberal candidate Mike Kelloway is shown watching the election results with his wife, mother and other supporters in the riding of Cape Breton-Canso. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"We'll wait and see. It looks very much like Mr. Kelloway won and I congratulate him for that. I congratulate the other candidates who put their names forward, it is not an easy thing to do. "

He urged the winning federal party not to ignore the Cape Breton riding where child poverty, health care and the fishery "are on a lot of people's minds."

Kelloway said seniors' concerns and issues affecting residents in rural areas were common topics as he visited homes in the riding.

"They're also looking for someone who's in the trenches, working with the not-for-profits, with the business community and education. There's a lot of different variables at play," said Kelloway, who works as community innovation lead for the Nova Scotia Community College. He also volunteers for the Glace Bay community group called Bay It Forward.

He said he is considering establishing a roaming office, to spend time in different parts of the riding that includes parts of Cape Breton Regional Municipality as well as Inverness, Richmond, Antigonish and Guyborough areas.

"My background is in rural development so I get it, so I want to bring democracy and their representative to them."

Alfie MacLeod waited until after midnight to address supporters at the Reserve Mines Seniors and Pensioners Club. He wouldn’t concede to Liberal Mike Kelloway. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Orrell and Battiste battled until nearly every vote was counted.

The lead ping-ponged right down to final poll count, with Battiste pulling forward at the end.

Battiste thanked his supporters before the results were announced.

"It's been an amazing journey no matter what the polls come out with tonight. All the ups and downs we had to go through daily, people in this room stuck by me," he said.

"You know we got to the finish line. No matter what the results are I"ve been really happy to have you on my team."

Liberal candidate Jaime Battiste is shown greeting supporters at the Membertou Convention Centre on election night. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Orrell said he and his team knocked on over 20,000 doors during the campaign.

"But unfortunately for us, the people of Sydney-Victoria looks like they've chosen the Liberal candidate Jaime Battiste and I want to thank him and congratulate him, looks like a win tonight."

Thanking his supporters, he noted that members of his campaign team were kept busy with election signs.

"All the people who put up signs, made signs, collected signs, put them out, fixed them and refixed them. And refixed them again. I got to say guys, this was one of the worst times we had for signs getting beat up."

Orrell referred to his time as a Progressive Conservative MLA.

"It's been a good ride. Guys, we had eight years in the Nova Scotia Legislature and we thought we could do more. You know what, the people of Sydney-Victoria have spoken and I'm willing to live with that if that's what the final results are gonna be"

Conservative Eddie Orrell speaks following the election in Sydney-Victoria. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Afterwards, Battiste attributed his win to hard work.

"I worked the hardest, I knocked on doors where people weren't knocking on doors," he said. 

"I am really happy to be the winner today and I am going to work hard every day to show Canadians, not only Cape Breton, that I won this for a reason. I believe in Canada, I believe in reconciliation, I believe in diversity and these are the things I ran on."  

Battiste, a lawyer and resident of Eskasoni First Nation, was criticized for offensive social media posts he made in the past, for which he apologized.

He repeated that apology on Monday night.

 "All I can do is apologize and move forward. I've always been a person who believes in diversity and who believes in equal rights. And I believe our campaign — with Indigenous people and international students, women and non-indigenous people — it was the most diverse campaign in Nova Scotia and I am proud of that."

Volunteers Gordena MacLeod, left, and Monica Boudreau are shown at the headquarters of Conservative candidate Eddie Orrell in North Sydney. (Elizabeth McMillian/CBC)

Delilah Bernard, who lives in Ottawa but is from Eskasoni First Nation, worked on Battiste's campaign. 

"I think it is an extremely important time in history. We've come so far in the last couple of decades for representation in the federal government," she said.

"A lot of people were really excited at the idea to have someone they could identify with in government."

Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny said Monday he noticed an increase in interest among local First Nations in federal politics during this election.

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With files from Tom Ayers and Brittany Wentzell

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