Nova Scotia

McDougall defeats Clarke to become 1st female mayor of CBRM

Amanda McDougall will be Cape Breton Regional Municipality's next mayor, after defeating two-term incumbent Cecil Clarke and four other challengers on Saturday night.

The first-term councillor won with nearly 4,000 votes more than Clarke

During her campaign for CBRM mayor, Amanda McDougall promised to allow citizens to speak during council meetings and to provide monthly progress reports. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Amanda McDougall will be Cape Breton Regional Municipality's first female mayor, after defeating two-term incumbent Cecil Clarke and four other challengers on Saturday night.

The first-term councillor won with nearly 4,000 votes more than Clarke.

McDougall and Clarke regularly clashed during council meetings, with McDougall challenging Clarke's management style and frequent use of in-camera meetings.

The mayor-elect said she plans to make the council chamber more open.

"It's been a long time since those chambers have belonged to the wider public and that has been one of my priorities from day one is to bring people back into the decision making process," she said.

In CBRM district results, incumbent Esmond (Blue) Marshall was defeated by Cyril MacDonald and incumbent Ivan Doncaster lost to Steve Parsons.

Incumbents Earlene MacMullin, Steve Gillespie, Eldon MacDonald and Darren Bruckschwaiger were returned to council

Newcomers Gordon MacDonald, Glenn Paruch, James Edwards, Kenny Tracey and Darren O'Quinn were elected.

In District 12, former councillor Lorne Green was also elected. He sat on council in 1997 and was later a school board member and chair.

Green said one of his priorities will be to help represent the Black community.

"I will be a strong voice for them, an advocate for change, obviously, in CBRM and make sure that their concerns and issues are forefront for me," he said.

McDougall said council will look quite different, but most have a common belief that decisions on projects like the new fire station and the library need to include public participation.

"There has been such an outcry over the past four years for people wanting and yearning to be more engaged in the municipal decision making process," she said.

McDougall said no one should discount the amount of work Clarke put in as mayor.

"I did learn a lot from him over the past four years, but it's the wider community that I take my lessons from."

Clarke was unavailable for comment on Saturday night. However, in a video posted online, he congratulated McDougall and said he was proud of his years of public service.

"I really can't wait for what the future has to offer," Clarke said.

"Know this: my commitment to our community will not waiver."

Clarke surprised reporters on election night in 2016 saying — without being asked — that he had no plans to run for a third term, after defeating New Dawn Enterprises president Rankin MacSween.

However, Clarke changed his mind this year during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he was running again because CBRM needed the steady hand of experience at the helm.

Pandemic created campaign challenges

Cape Breton University political science professor Tom Urbaniak said that made Clarke vulnerable, but it was not a given that McDougall could defeat the longtime politician.

"There was some doubt about the ability of Amanda McDougall to campaign as expansively as she would have wanted because of the COVID-19," he said.

The pandemic created a shorter campaign period with drastically reduced opportunities to get out and meet voters, Urbaniak said, and having six people running for mayor added to the challenge.

However, he said, McDougall ran a positive campaign focusing on environmental leadership.

2 women elected in Victoria County

Elsewhere in Cape Breton, Victoria County will have two new faces on council and both are women.

Incumbent councillors Paul MacNeil, Bruce Morrison, Fraser Patterson and Larry Dauphinee ran unopposed and were acclaimed.

Perla MacLeod was the lone woman on council and she was re-elected in District 2.

She'll be joined by Barb Longva in District 4 and Jackie Organ in District 7, which MacLeod called "fantastic."

"I feel very positive and looking forward to working with them."

Norman MacDonald was re-elected in District 8.

All incumbents defeated in Richmond County

In Richmond County, two women were elected to council.

In District 3, Melanie Sampson downed incumbent councillor Brian Marchand and in District 4, Amanda Mombourquette defeated incumbent councillor Gilbert Boucher.

Sampson said she feels residents were looking for co-operation and respect among councillors in the wake of a controversy over council's decision to not provide financial support for a women's candidate school.

She said that controversy provided some motivation for her campaign.

"The conference didn't affect my want to run, but it really affected my want to win," Sampson said.

"I wanted to win for all of the women who maybe wonder whether or not they can do it, whether or not they can take on leadership roles at work, or whether or not they can take on those roles in their volunteer work, or maybe they can take leadership roles in their families.

"For me, when I saw how many women attended that conference and what they got out of it ... I wanted to win for them."

Shawn Samson won a four-way race, defeating incumbent councillor James Goyetche in District 1.

In District 2, newcomer Michael Diggdon won over two other challengers and in District 5, Brent Sampson handily defeated incumbent councillor Jason MacLean.

Only one incumbent re-elected in Inverness County

In Inverness County, incumbent councillor John MacLennan was re-elected and three women beat out three incumbent men.

In District 3, Bonnie MacIsaac defeated Jim Mustard.

In District 5, Lynn Chisholm downed Betty Ann MacQuarrie and in District 6, Catherine L. Gillis ousted John Dowling.

Incumbent councillors Alfred Poirier and Laurie Cranton ran unopposed and were acclaimed.

In the Town of Port Hawkesbury, unofficial results show incumbent Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton held off challenger Archie MacLachlan.

Voters elected four councillors at large, including Blaine MacQuarrie, Hughie MacDougall, Jason Aucoin and Mark MacIver.

About the Author

Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at

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