Nova Scotia

NDP targets Dartmouth-Cole Harbour

The NDP is hoping a high profile candidate can turn the seat from Liberal red back to New Democrat orange in the federal riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.
NDP candidate Robert Chisholm is hoping to retake the riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour for his party in the upcoming federal election. ((CBC))
The NDP is hoping a high profile candidate can turn the seat from Liberal red back to New Democrat orange in the federal riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

Liberal Michael Savage, who has represented the riding since 2004, is looking for his fourth term. The NDP's Wendy Lill held the seat from 1997, but did not run in 2004 because of illness.

The man who led the provincial NDP to within a seat of forming government back in 1998 happens to be the man trying to unseat Savage on May 2.

Robert Chisholm said the key to winning is meeting as many voters as possible and working hard for their vote.

"You don't take voters for granted. You never know what they're going to do when it comes to election day. I mean, remember 1998," he said.

In that election, the NDP won 19 seats — the same number as the governing Liberals. The Grits remained in power with the help of the Tories who took 14 seats.

Chisholm said he's proud the provincial party is finally in office, and it may help or hinder his bid for federal office.

"When you're in a position to make decisions that affect people, some people like those decisions. Some people don't. So you get a bit of that," he said.

Savage said he has come across some people eager to cast a ballot for him because they have been turned off by the provincial NDP government.

NDPers go to Grits

For example, he said, he got a surprise when he canvassed one home on Forest Hills Parkway.

"When I came to the door, she said, 'Don't waste your time,' which can go two ways. I said, ' OK,' Savage said. " I'm voting for you,' she said. 'I've always been NDP. Always had a sign. Always canvassed, but Darrell Dexter cured me of that.'"

Liberal candidate Mike Savage has represented the riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour since 2004. ((CBC))
Savage said that in past election he's won the support of former Conservatives, but in this election he's been surprised at the number of New Democrats who are coming over to him.

 "It's not as easy to govern as people think. So people who have voted NDP for a long time are having second thoughts about voting NDP," he said.  

The riding used to be a Progressive Conservative stronghold, but it hasn't been for quite a while.

High school teacher Wanda Webber, who finished almost 7,000 votes behind Savage in the last election, is the candidate again.

She is trying again to reverse the trend with the pitch that Dartmouth can count on her to champion the riding— all the way to the prime minister's office.

"When you consider the last 23 years, we've been contrary down here. We've had a Member of Parliament in opposition for 18 of those 23 years. So, we're not listened to.  We're a bit of a mirage on the horizon," she said.

"I'm a relatively quiet person, but I'm not shy about speaking my mind."

Webber said she wouldn't hesitate to tell Stephen Harper if she disagreed with him.

Progressive Conservative candidate Wanda Webber is fighting to regain the riding that hasn't been held by her party since 1988. ((CBC))
"Absolutely, I wouldn't hesitate. I think he would appreciate that," she said. "I don't think any leader wants to be surrounded by people who are always saying yes."

The Green Party candidate in the riding is Paul Shreenan. He and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May founded the Atlantic Canada chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada.

In the 2008 election, Shreenan got 2,417 votes, or  about six per cent of the vote

Voter apathy

In the 2008 general election, voter turnout in Nova Scotia hit a record low with just six out of 10 eligible voters casting a ballot.

Tim Hickey, 23, is one of those people who didn't vote. He said he's never voted because he's never been inspired to do so.

"Honestly, either person running — anyone running — just doesn't have any of my interests. I'm just not interested in them."

"If before voting day, if something interests me from one of the candidates, then possibly I might vote for them. But if they can't do nothing that interests me, then I'm not giving them my vote."

Laura Lake said she does vote, but she does so by the process of elimination.

"I tend to find out who not to vote for first and then I'll make my decision from who's left," she said, adding she hasn't made up her mind yet.