Nova Scotia

Pro-Cape Breton group backing 2 Independent candidates in byelections

Two of the Independent candidates running in the Sept. 3 byelections in two Cape Breton ridings are getting support from a registered society called the Cape Breton United Association, which says it's simply helping candidates Russ Green and Andrew Doyle get their messages out.

Cape Breton United Association says it's helping Russ Green and Andrew Doyle get their messages out

Russ Green is running as an Independent in Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, while Independent Andrew Doyle is running in Northside-Westmount. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Two of the Independent candidates running in the Sept. 3 byelections in two Cape Breton ridings are getting support from a registered society called the Cape Breton United Association.

The society, which has a Facebook page with more than 2,600 members, is concerned with Cape Breton affairs, including perceived unfairness in federal equalization payments and it wants more autonomy in making decisions affecting the island.

Its website includes a spot for people to sign up as an Independent candidate, with the aim of backing an Independent in each Cape Breton riding.

"We as Cape Breton United do not dictate a plan, we're looking for the public and the citizens to basically be involved and together we identify those plans and solutions," said Nigel Kearns, one of the directors of the association.

According to the provincial Registry of Joint Stocks, the society's legal name is the Cape Breton United Party Association.

Kearns said the group isn't a political party, but is simply helping the two candidates get their message out and encouraging people to vote for Independent candidates.

'The parties are the problem,' says Independent Russ Green

Independent Russ Green is running in Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg.

"The parties are the problem here," he said. "The liberals blame the Tories and then the Tories blame the NDP … it's back and forth and Cape Breton cannot take too much more blame."

Green is a continuing care assistant. After living away, Green said he was shocked by the difference between Cape Breton and Halifax and towns in Ontario, including poorly maintained roads and a lack of doctors.

"It wasn't too long before I made the connection to the fact that the provincial capital uses the economic disparity in all of rural Nova Scotia and Cape Breton to apply for more and more money every year, but they're not applying the money … to the areas that need it," he said.

Green said he believes Cape Bretoners need someone who will advocate for their needs, including economic development, health care and lowering taxes.

He also serves as a spokesperson for a group called Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness. It argues federal equalization payment unfairly favours the Halifax Regional Municipality and disadvantages Cape Breton.

According to the Registry of Joint Stocks, the society defaulted in 2014, but it maintains an active social media presence, which has included promoting Green's candidacy.

Local governance needed, says Independent Andrew Doyle

Local musician Andrew Doyle has thrown his hat in the ring in Northside-Westmount.

He said he was originally approached by the Progressive Conservative riding association, but didn't pass the vetting process due to some old social media activity. Doyle said he was already going to run anyway.

He said he's frustrated with the economic downturn in Cape Breton, citing the recent viability study that was completed for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Doyle said he wants a better future for his infant son, citing health care as one of his top priorities.

"I believe the people best suited to handle this are the people who are just up to their necks in it," said Doyle, pointing to local nurses and doctors.

He also wants to see tourism become a bigger driving force in Cape Breton's economy.

Cape Breton has elected an Independent before

The third Independent candidate running in Cape Breton is Danny Laffin. He was originally the Progressive Candidate in Northside-Westmount, but was dumped by the party before the deadline over an alleged failure to comply with the internal disclosure process. Neither the party nor Laffin has specified what he failed to disclose.

Cape Breton hasn't sent an Independent MLA to the legislature since 1988 when Paul MacEwan ran as an Independent. However, MacEwan had previously been elected under several other party banners and within a year joined the Liberal caucus.

There is also one byelection being held on Sept. 3 in mainland Nova Scotia.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca

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