Open race in Truro-area byelection to fill former NDP seat
All five candidates say doctor shortage a top concern on the campaign trail
Voters in Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River are set to choose a new MLA Tuesday, filling a seat that's been empty for the past six months.
Lenore Zann took the seat for the NDP in 2009 and held it for two subsequent elections before departing for the federal Liberal Party — meaning this year's byelection candidates are in the riding's first open race in over a decade.
In the face of dwindling NDP representation at Province House, Kathleen Kevany is hoping to reclaim the seat for the New Democrats.
"I think that Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River has been well served by the progressive voice of NDP representation, and I'm certainly running to sustain this momentum here as the MLA," Kevany said.
Kevany said she thinks the NDP is best suited to address climate change and health care — the two issues she said have come up the most frequently on her campaign.
The Dalhousie University professor said she understands, because of her academic background, "the urgency of combating climate change and the need to have new green jobs." Working in the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie's Truro campus, Kevany researches community well-being and food security.
Doctor shortage dominates campaign talk
On the issue of health care, Kevany pointed to the growing number of people in her community on the Nova Scotia Health Authority's registry of people needing a family practice.
As of Mar. 1, 11 per cent of Colchester County — home to the Truro-area riding — had signed their names to the registry, up by more than three per cent from the last monthly report.
Kevany said those numbers are "so unacceptable these days, and our voters say so, too."
Every candidate in the race said the doctor shortage, and health care more broadly, dominated their campaign conversations.
Dave Ritcey is trying to take the seat for the Progressive Conservatives, winners of four byelections in the past year. The PCs held the riding for 10 years under Jamie Muir, who stepped away from politics in 2009.
Ritcey said he thinks Muir's legacy, Tim Houston's party leadership and Ritcey's own name on the ballot will turn Truro-area voters back to the PCs.
The 48-year-old, who works as a director for the Cumberland Colchester Community Credit Union, says he has a deep understanding of the community because he's lived, worked and volunteered there most of his life.
He pointed to the revitalization of the Truro Amateur Athletics Club as an example of a community project he would fight for at Province House.
"It's a project that is really dear to the community, and the members that are on that [revitalization] committee have worked so hard over the last five years, and still no answer from government if they can help or not."
Byelections won't take away the Liberal majority
The governing Liberals have Allan Kennedy, a retired school teacher and principal, on the ballot. Kennedy was quick to highlight his party's majority in the House of Assembly.
"I want our community to have a seat at the table to ensure that our voices are heard."
Kennedy said, if elected, "the voices of our community will be propelled right to the government table … where the decisions are being made."
A byelection for Cape Breton Centre will also take place Tuesday, to fill the vacancy left by Tammy Martin, the NDP MLA who resigned in January due to illness.
No matter the outcome of the two provincial byelections, the Liberals will still hold a majority.
Green and Atlantica candidates on the ticket
The Green Party has never had an MLA in the Nova Scotia legislature, but Ivan Drouin said he thinks it may be time for a Green breakthrough similar to the one in P.E.I. last year.
Drouin, a psychologist at St. Francis Xavier University's counselling centre, said climate change has been a common concern on the campaign trail, from young people who have grown up learning climate science to seniors "thinking about their grandchildren."
He wasn't the only candidate to name climate change as an issue they would address on behalf of constituents — Kevany, Kennedy and Matthew Rushton of the Atlantica Party did, too.
Rushton, a contractor and labourer, is the only candidate on the ballot who has run in a political campaign before. His first bid was in the fall federal election as an Independent and he took less than one per cent of the vote.
He said he wants to represent his community at the legislature because he sees "so many people suffering" from economic insecurity, homelessness and lack of health-care access, and he doesn't think the traditional parties are helping those people.
Voters in both Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River and Cape Breton Centre can cast their ballots at designated polling stations between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday.