Liberals, Tories battle it out in Cumberland-Colchester riding
Wendy Robinson says Bill Casey has a big reputation in the battle against Scott Armstrong
Perhaps the most telling observation about the state of the race in Cumberland Colchester comes from the NDP candidate who is watching the "stop Harper" vote go to a local legend running for the Liberals.
"It is difficult for me to fight that tide," says Wendy Robinson, mayor of the small town of Stewiacke and making her second run for the NDP.
Robinson risks being sideswiped in a two-person contest between Conservative Scott Armstrong and newly minted Liberal Bill Casey, who won the riding five times as a Conservative before falling out with Stephen Harper in 2007.
Casey's stand over Ottawa's changes to federal funding to Nova Scotia and his expulsion from the Conservative caucus led to a smashing victory as an independent in the 2008 election.
In 2015, Casey is again running against Harper. His signs urge voters to "send Stephen Harper as message: vote for Bill Casey."
"The message can be what you want it to be," Casey says. "It can be Mr. Harper we want the veterans treated right. Mr. Harper we want the environment looked after. Mr.. Harper we want an economic development plan that will apply to Atlantic Canada."
The former car salesman from Amherst says voters are tired of the Conservatives.
"People want to have a change. It's almost universal. Not everybody will vote for change, but I think everybody would like to see change," he says.
Wendy Robinson admits the anti Harper vote — including some of the NDP base — is going to Casey. She says people are reacting to a fear that vote splitting between Liberal and NDP supporters could help re-elect Scott Armstrong and hence Stephen Harper.
"It is difficult to turn around. Mr. Casey has a fantastic reputation. It's tough for me to compete with that," says Robinson.
She believes this phenomenon is not nationwide and warns strategic voters in the riding to beware electing a Liberal government they don't want.
History is on the side of two-term Conservative MP Scott Armstrong, a school principal who won the seat in 2009 after Casey stepped down. He was easily re-elected in 2011. The Liberals have finished third in the last five elections and won it just once in forty years.
"We've been able to deliver for the residents here generation after generation. People realize that. Mr. Casey was a Conservative but he's now a Liberal and he has to defend Liberal polices," he says.
Armstrong points to a carbon tax — opposed once by Casey, but now supported by the Liberals. Armstrong says it will increase the cost of bussing school children, trucking logs and farm products in the largely rural riding. Like at least one other Conservative candidate in rural Nova Scotia, he is also reviving fears over the long-gun registry.
On the carbon tax, Casey responds that five provinces have either cap-and-trade or a carbon tax.
"With no leadership we are going to have ten programs. We have to have a prime minister who will show leadership so we have one universal, common approach to greenhouse gases. And we don't have it right now."
Meet the other candidates
This week voters in Cumberland Colchester are getting a look at their candidates in a series of debates across the riding.
Casey, Armstrong and Robinson are sharing the stage with two other candidates.
Jason Blanch is making his third run for the Greens.
The organic farmer and addictions counsellor told an audience at the Dalhousie University Agriculture campus in Truro that he was running for the right reasons.
"I'm running for a party I'm not likely to win at, so I must have some other motivation other than getting a $160,000 a year. I do. I want to change the world," he said.
Independent Kenneth Jackson says he is the only candidate committed to direct democracy.
He says if elected he will vote for bills based on the wishes of his constituents.