Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Rematch between Liberal, NDP hopefuls in Sydney-Membertou as PCs hope for breakthrough

The Progressive Conservative candidate is doing her best to make it a three-way race as the Liberal incumbent and NDP challenger face off for a third time in the Nova Scotia riding of Sydney-Membertou.

NDP's Madonna Doucette hoping to spoil Liberal Derek Mombourquette's bid for three-peat

Sydney-Membertou candidates say health care top of mind

1 year ago
Duration 3:25
Liberal incumbent Derek Mombourquette is defending his seat against Madonna Doucette of the NDP and PC candidate Pauline Singer.

Derek Mombourquette has beaten the New Democratic Party's Madonna Doucette twice before and is hoping for a three-peat in his bid to hang onto the Nova Scotia riding of Sydney-Membertou.

Mombourquette has held the riding for the Liberals since 2015 when he handily won a byelection against Doucette, who was his nearest competitor but still about 1,400 votes behind.

In a 2017 rematch, Doucette was just 161 votes shy of beating Mombourquette. 

The riding's boundaries have shifted west, away from the traditionally NDP territory in Whitney Pier, but Doucette said she is getting a warm reception with voters.

"My name is known for more than just trying to be a politician," said Doucette, a single mom and LGBT2S [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit] activist with the Cape Breton Youth Project.

"I have a concrete record of being involved in the community, so when people are meeting me at the doors, they already know that I have credibility. They already know that I am a very compassionate person, and so there's a little bit of educating I don't have to do at the door."

The election in Sydney-Membertou features a rematch between the Liberal incumbent and the NDP challenger, but the PC candidate is hoping to make it a three-way race. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Meanwhile, Progressive Conservative candidate Pauline Singer is doing her best to make the bid for Sydney-Membertou a three-way race.

"Derek has two strong women coming after his job and we are ready to work and we want that job," said Singer, manager of the Cape Breton Farmers' Market and a volunteer with youth, schools and the Breton Ability Centre's home for people with disabilities.

Mombourquette said both his opponents are formidable and he isn't taking anything for granted.

"I have a ton of respect for both Madonna and Pauline, for the work and the advocacy that they do in the community," he said.

"They're great leaders ... and this is going to be a close race, there's no question."

Like their counterparts in other ridings, the candidates for Sydney-Membertou all list health care, mental health, the doctor shortage, and the need for better long-term care as major issues in the campaign.

They also say there is need for more and better programs for seniors.

Differences over capital spending

Another big issue is the transformation underway in Sydney, where hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on construction at the regional hospital and a new downtown campus of the Nova Scotia Community College.

The regional hospital expansion is part of the Liberals' overall hospital redevelopment plan in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, which involves growing services at the Glace Bay hospital and closing emergency rooms in New Waterford and North Sydney.

Those two aging hospitals are being replaced with long-term care facilities and community health centres costing hundreds of millions more.

Mombourquette said even though there are still issues that need to be addressed, the capital spending is already paying dividends.

The NDP's Madonna Doucette says health-care issues are at the top of voters' concerns. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

"Looking back four years ago and to now, there's a billion dollars invested in the community, so we have over 700 people starting jobs in construction," he said.

"There's a lot of positive momentum and there's always going to be work to do ... but four years later, going into this campaign, there's an optimism that people are starting to see, finally, investment in the CBRM."

Doucette said health-care issues are at the top of voters' concerns and that started with the Liberals' plan to amalgamate nine district health authorities into one large bureaucracy in 2017.

"We are here because of the decisions that our government has made and now it's going to take us a long time to dig ourselves out of this hole," she said.

"We go through three years of drought and absolutely no spending on infrastructure in Cape Breton and then pre-election, it rains the money down on our communities as though we're supposed to throw a parade when they spend our taxpayer money. 

"We need more and we need more investment into the people of our communities as well."

Liberal incumbent Derek Mombourquette says he expects a tight race in Sydney-Membertou. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

The farmers' market is located across the street from the new NSCC Marconi campus, which is expected to bring more than 1,000 students and staff into the downtown area.

Singer said she is not expecting great things from the new construction.

"I think what we've done is we've put a very expensive building on a waterfront lot that could have been given to a private developer to build residences down here," she said. "That's what revitalizes a downtown, having people in your core."

Pauline Singer, who is running for the PCs, says the waterfront property where the new NSCC Marconi campus is going up would have been better used for a private housing development. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Mombourquette said he is running for re-election because there are still more projects that need to get done, including a new library and an expansion of Centre 200.

"Something I want to advocate for our cancer centre is a PET scan so Cape Bretoners don't have to travel to Halifax," he said. "These are the things that are important to me and important to the community, and I still have a lot of energy and drive to do the job."

The riding encompasses all of residential and downtown Sydney, as well as the Membertou First Nation.

Mombourquette, seen here campaigning in Sydney-Membertou, says he is running for re-election to work on other projects, such as a new library, expansion of the Centre 200 arena and improved cancer care. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

All three candidates said First Nations are mostly a federal jurisdiction, but there are areas of provincial responsibility.

Doucette and Singer said the province has a role in implementing some of the recommendations of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

Mombourquette said he has helped Membertou access provincial infrastructure funding and as minister of energy, he signed an agreement that will see homes retrofitted on all 13 Nova Scotia reserves, boosting training and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Mombourquette also said as education minister, he has helped ensure treaty education is implemented in the school curriculum.



Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at