Nova Scotia

Opposition parties split Nova Scotia byelections

Tory candidate Dave Ritcey was elected Tuesday night in the Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River byelection and NDP candidate Kendra Coombes won in Cape Breton Centre.

Tories and NDP each take a seat, Liberals shut out

Dave Ritcey won the Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River byelection for the Tories while New Democrat Kendra Coombes took Cape Breton Centre. (Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives/Nova Scotia NDP)

The Progressive Conservatives and NDP are each getting another seat in the Nova Scotia Legislature.

Tory candidate Dave Ritcey was elected in a byelection for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River on Tuesday. Ritcey opened a big lead over the field as soon as the polls closed.

New Democrat Kendra Coombes, meanwhile, was victorious in Cape Breton Centre, besting a field that included former Liberal MLA Dave Wilton. Unofficial results had Coombes with 2,731, good for a 43 per cent share. Ritcey's 2,922 votes amounted to a 51 per cent share.

Ritcey said he was thrilled with the result.

"I'm very excited. I'm looking forward to getting to work," he said in a telephone interview as he headed for a victory party at Truro's Rath Eastlink Community Centre. Ritcey said he was feeling good heading into Tuesday night based on the reaction he was getting on doorsteps.

"There was a different vibe, to be honest with you. I'm glad that the vibe swung this way."

Focused on health care

The seat was up for grabs after former New Democrat MLA Lenore Zann resigned in September to run in the federal election. She was elected as a Liberal in the riding of Cumberland-Colchester.

Ritcey's win bumps the Tory seat count at Province House to 18.

Aside from trying to tackle health-care concerns and meeting with as many people as he can to learn about their issues, Ritcey said he also wants to focus on getting support to upgrade the athletics facility in Truro.

"I think that's more of a preventative health-care system itself," he said.

NDP holds Cape Breton Centre

The win for Coombes brings a seat back to the NDP that the party held until Tammy Martin resigned last month for personal reasons.

At a victory party in New Waterford, Coombes thanked her partner, Matt Brown, for caring for the couple's eight-month-old daughter during the campaign. She joked that her first order of business would be catching up on sleep.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor said she's ready to hit the ground running and believes the political experience she already has will serve her well in her new role.

"I understand policy, I understand budgets, I understand how things work within the governmental system," Coombes told reporters at the French Club.

"It won't be a complete fish-out-of-water experience."

Coombes becomes the fifth MLA for the party in the House. The win brings the NDP some much-needed resources. The party came out of the 2017 provincial election with seven seats, but lost Zann to federal politics and Martin and Dave Wilson to other pursuits.

Ritcey and Coombes will have plenty of time to get set up before worrying about appearing at the legislature. The spring sitting wrapped up on Tuesday.

Tough night for Liberals

Although there was something for each of the opposition parties to celebrate on Tuesday, there were few silver linings for the governing Liberals.

The seat in Truro has never been a strong district for the Grits. And while the party finished second to the Tories — ahead of the NDP — its share of the vote was no higher than it was in the 2017 general election.

The party had higher hopes for Wilton to win back the Cape Breton Centre seat. But despite pending health-care infrastructure projects and other announcements in the area, the party's vote share was lower than in 2017.

The Liberals continue to hold a majority in the legislature with 26 seats. There are two Independent MLAs.

Voter turnout in Cape Breton Centre was 51.6 per cent, while in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River it was 35.7 per cent.

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With files from Tom Ayers

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