Key Trudeau Liberal fights for re-election in N.S. conservative stronghold
Bernadette Jordan trying to win back-to-back elections in South Shore-St. Margarets
On a crisp and sunny Monday morning, more than a dozen people are waving placards and bouncing to the beat of the Liberal Party's 2019 theme song.
The local candidate, Bernadette Jordan, is leading the group as they pump their hands high above their heads each time the Strumbellas sing the refrain to One Hand Up.
Jordan is laughing, smiling and waving at people on their way to work at the busy intersection just outside her Bridgewater, N.S., campaign office in the federal riding of South Shore-St. Margarets.
If she is fighting for her political life, as her opponents suggest, she's not letting it show.
"It's been a good four years," says Jordan. "I think we have a good record to stand on."
As the only Nova Scotian MP in Justin Trudeau's cabinet, Jordan is more personally tied to that record. That's despite only being named rural economic development minister in January during a cabinet shuffle that followed the surprise resignation of Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison, who had served as president of the Treasury Board.
Jordan is the first woman from Nova Scotia to become a federal minister, and one of only two Liberals to represent South Shore-St. Margarets in the past 62 years.
She admits her second federal campaign is different than her first.
"I think it's a tougher sell because we're the incumbent government, because we're the government that has been there for four years," she says.
"I don't have any issues with defending our record, with what we've done in this riding, with what we've done across the country."
Her Conservative rival, Rick Perkins, says voters he's talked to are not impressed with the Liberal record, especially when it comes to its spending choices.
He notes the decision to commit $30 million toward a $140-million art gallery planned for Halifax, at a time when "the wharves in this riding are falling down and we can't go fishing in this riding with the shape of some of our wharves."
Perkins is also hoping to capitalize on the anxiety fishing communities are feeling about marine-protected areas, which the federal government is creating to help meet an international commitment to protect 10 per cent of Canada's ocean and coastal areas by 2020.
"This will impact all fishing communities around Nova Scotia," says Perkins. "In those areas you won't be able to groundfish, you won't be able to lobster fish, you won't be able to scallop fish and in some cases you won't be able to do hook-line fishing."
It's a claim Jordan flatly rejects.
"There are people who are upset, but there are also people who understand that in order to continue to maintain a fishery we do have to protect the oceans," she says. "It doesn't mean it's a no-take zone. It may not impact the fishery at all."
The Green Party candidate, Thomas Trappenberg, is trying to win over voters looking for a new choice.
"Traditionally, this riding has been very conservative, or two parties back and forth," he says. "People are really tired of it."
He says the focus on climate change during this campaign has garnered him workers. He hopes it will win him votes.
"I have so many people actually helping me which came from different political backgrounds," says Trappenberg. "It shows me clearly people are ready to just look forward, forget the past."
There are two candidates in this race turning their backs on traditional campaign tactics, New Democrat Jessika Hepburn and the Christian Heritage Party's only Nova Scotia candidate, Kevin Schulthies.
Rather than campaigning door to door, the first-time NDP candidate is instead meeting voters in social housing buildings, in hospitals, standing outside grocery stores, or at community centres.
"Places where people already are, and they're already ready to share their story and to meet with me," says Hepburn.
She feels traditional campaigns are a "grotesque waste of money." Rather than spending money, she's spending time with individual voters.
"I spent over an hour talking with a woman in her 50s who has never voted before," says Hepburn. "She has been watching in the last four years her community struggle more and more, and that vote to me means more than knocking on 50 doors getting a quick hello."
Schulthies is connecting with people through his party's webpage and by recording videos he's posting on his YouTube channel.
He says although his is a Christian-based party he hopes voters "can appreciate somebody in Parliament holding to a higher standard."
Rob Monk, the People's Party of Canada candidate, is running for the fledgling party because he feels free to speak his mind. The Halifax-area building contractor spoiled his ballot and planned to again in this election until former Conservative Maxime Bernier formed the party.
Although he's been called a "Nazi" during this campaign, Monk feels the party is speaking for the "silent majority."
There are two Independents running, Steven Foster and Shawn McMahon. Jason Matthews is representing the Veteran's Coalition Party of Canada.