Nova Scotia

Canada election 2015: N.S. South Shore-St. Margaret's riding up for grabs?

A 23-year-old political aide is trying to keep the Conservative ship afloat in the upcoming federal election.

Opposition parties eye traditionally Conservative riding

The candidates for South Shore-St. Margarets include, from left, Richard Biggar (Green), Richard Clark (Conservative), Alex Godbold (New Democrat) and Bernadette Jordan (Liberal). (Green Party, Conservative Party, NDP, Liberal Party)

Claiming widespread voter fatigue with Stephen Harper, Liberals and New Democrats have their eye on the traditionally Conservative riding of South Shore-St. Margaret's. In that riding, a 23-year-old political staffer is trying to hold the seat for the Tories.

"The universal message is they want Harper gone," said NDP candidate Alex Godbold, a school teacher.

Alex Goldbold is the NDP candidate for South Shore-St. Margaret's 0:26
 

"Very rarely at the door have I seen people suggest they are supporting the Conservatives," he said, adding: "The biggest conversation is, how are we going to get rid of him? Which party is the best to replace him?" 

"People want change," said Bernadette Jordan, who is running for the Liberals and works as a hospital fundraiser.

South Shore-St. Margaret's is one of three ridings in Nova Scotia where the incumbent Conservative MP is not re-offering.

In all three ridings, the Conservatives are running political staffers.

"I am 23 years old but I have significant experience in politics," said Conservative candidate Richard Clark, who started volunteering when he was 13.

For the last 18 years, the riding was represented by Clark's mentor Gerald Keddy, a Lunenburg County Christmas tree grower first elected as a Progressive Conservative in 1997.

Richard Clark is the Conservative Party candidate for South Shore-St. Margaret's 0:39

Experience questioned

At a candidates debate in Chester this week, a member of the audience challenged Clark on his level of experience.

"A member of parliament makes $160,000 a year as a starting salary," the Hubbards man said.

"I looked up your LinkedIn page. You graduated in 2014 and from what I can see, the job you've held the longest is meat clerk. I have great respect for grocery workers ... but what makes you capable?" he asked.

In fact, the political science graduate is a polished performer.

He has worked as a Conservative Party of Canada organizer and spent the last year as a policy aide to ACOA Minister Rob Moore.

"In that job, I had to demonstrate judgement everyday as we decided how to hand out taxpayers dollars, "
Clark said.

In the same breath the 23-year-old went on to disparage Liberal Leader and two-term MP Justin Trudeau.

"So my problem with Justin Trudeau isn't his age, it's his lack of experience."

Liberal candidate Bernadette Jordan responded:

"In terms of Mr. Trudeau's experience, he has brought the Liberal Party from third place after the last election with only 33 members in the House to the party that's going to form the next government." 

Bernadette Jordan is the Liberal Party candidate for South Shore-St. Margaret's. 0:27

Jordan predicted a similar turnaround in South Shore-St. Margaret's, which stretches from suburban Halifax to the fishing community of Woods Harbour and where the Liberals polled just 16.9 per cent of the vote in 2011.

Parties tout benefits

"This is a level playing field. We don't have the same leaders, we don't have the same candidates, we don't have an incumbent," Jordan said in her Chester campaign office, noting the Liberals have opened six offices and she's been in 197 of the 226 polling districts.

"I think people have to look at who they are voting for. I think I am very much the strongest candidate," she said.

All three major party candidates said their platform offers benefits to voters in the riding.

"We are the truly socially progressive party," said Godbold, citing $15-dollar-a day daycare and reducing the amount of hours needed to qualify for Employment Insurance.

Jordan pointed to the Liberal pledge to spend an additional $60-billion on infrastructure over the next decade.

"Nova Scotia is an older province," she said. "It has some of the oldest infrastructure — our roads, our bridges, our wharves."

Clark said the Conservatives are the only party that can be trusted to manage the economy, pointing to tax cuts and the recently signed 11-nation free trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he said will benefit local exporters.

Clark sees Stephen Harper as an asset.

"I think people want Prime Minister Harper to continue the work he's been doing," he said.

Three other candidates are also running.

Richard Biggar is the Green Party candidate for South Shore-St. Margaret's 0:22

The Greens are represented by Richard Biggar, a jail guard and former signal operator for the Canadian Forces who served in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a peace keeper.

Biggar accused the Conservatives of "dumbing down" the issues involving ISIS.

"There is way more to it than the Conservative government would lead you to believe," he said.

"Not treating this Syria problem like you can defeat it with bombs because you can't it takes a lot more than that," he said at the candidates debate in Chester Monday.

Ryan Barry is running for the Communist Party and Trevor Bruhm is running as an independent.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.