Unprecedented all-female slates for main parties in three South Shore ridings
'I look forward to the day when it's not even notable,' says one Lunenburg candidate
In three Nova Scotia South Shore ridings, one outcome is almost certain in the Aug.17 provincial election: Lunenburg, Lunenburg West and Queens will each send a woman to the legislature.
Which party the winner represents is up to voters.
Women are running for the three main parties in each of the ridings — an unprecedented all-female slate but one that does not faze the women seeking the Lunenburg seat.
"I've been asked this question about the number of women candidates. And I mean, I think it's great. I look forward to the day when it's not even notable," said Susan Corkum-Greek, who is running for the Progressive Conservatives in Lunenburg.
Tory Maxine Cochrane from Lunenburg became Nova Scotia's first female cabinet minister in 1985 when she was named minister of transportation.
In the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, the mayor and eight of 10 councillors are currently women.
"I'll tell you, in 2015, we were the first jurisdiction in Canada to have an MP, an MLA, a mayor and school board chair, who are all women," said Liberal candidate Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, the incumbent seeking re-election for a third term. "What does that say? That women are strong here. Women have a voice."
New Democrat candidate Alison Smith said: "It's fantastic we have women running in these districts. It says how normal it is for women to come forward," said .
The numbers so far
All three parties have strived to put forward a more diverse set of candidates.
The NDP are running 31 women and four candidates who identify as gender diverse. The PCs are running 19 women and the Liberals 21.
Nominations close Wednesday for Nova Scotia's 55 ridings.
The Lunenburg West race includes Becky Druhan (PC), Jennifer Naugler (Liberal), Merydie Ross (NDP) and Eric Wade (Green).
In the Queens riding, Mary Dahr (NDP), Kim Masland (PC), Susan MacLeod (Liberal) and Brian Muldoon (Green) are on the ticket.
Liberal candidate speaks on Robyn Ingraham
The three women running in Lunenburg shared their thoughts on the events surrounding Robyn Ingraham, the former Liberal candidate in Dartmouth South. Ingraham dropped out on Day 1 of the election citing mental illness.
She later said the party dropped her from the ticket over boudoir photos she had already disclosed, and asked her to lie by citing mental health concerns instead. Ingraham claimed the text of her resignation was supplied by the Liberal Party.
Liberal Leader Iain Rankin said Friday his party helped put together Ingraham's statement saying she'd step down as a candidate, but maintained she withdrew on her own.
Lohnes-Croft said she saw the images Ingraham referred to the day before the election call, but paid little attention.
"I feel really bad. You see we have all women running in Lunenburg and you know what, this should not be taking place in 2021," said Lohnes-Croft.
"Looking at people's private lives, their personalities, how they look — if we're all equals and we are building a campaign on equity, equity, inclusion, diversity, that is important. And we have to really have to change something. And this is a pivotal moment."
NDP, PC candidates weigh in
Smith, the NDP candidate, called Ingraham's treatment "kind of gross."
"Everyone knows that it's a struggle for women in politics. We are scrutinized to a much greater degree than men are. And frankly, I think that it speaks to how women are held to higher standards all the time."
Corkum-Greek of the PCs said her own mother was bipolar.
"I have lived through the stigma. In my case, it was the shame. You just don't tell people everything you know. And we're trying as a society to get past the stigma of mental illness," Corkum-Greek said.
"To be asked to reference mental illness as part of a spin-doctoring exercise, to explain the withdrawal of her candidacy — we talk about people being forthcoming about their mental health challenges and that becomes something you would use in that way, that is the most disturbing part to me."
Issues in Lunenburg
All three candidates say the Ingraham issue will not decide the election in Lunenburg.
The riding will have its first Green Party candidate since 2009 when it received 1.7 percent of the vote. Former party leader Thomas Trappenberg is running for the Greens.
As incumbent, Lohnes-Croft pointed to spending she and Lunenburg West Liberal cabinet minister Mark Furey delivered to the area. Furey is one of 11 Liberal MLAs not reoffering.
She highlighted a new palliative care unit for the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg. The project was one of many announced in the run up to the election.
"It shows that we've been good advocates for the people of Lunenburg and we've worked hard and we've listened to what are the needs of the municipal units," Lohnes-Croft said.
"It's not easy. We're competing with every MLA, every cabinet minister in Nova Scotia … we're all vying for those same dollars in our communities. And, you know, we've worked hard to get there. And I do not want to see that hard work go to waste."
Corkum-Greek said health care is the big issue on doorsteps, especially recent emergency room closures.
"We have the situation locally. Fishermen's hospital was closed on the same night Queen's General [Hospital] was closed, leaving only the South Shore Regional," said Corkum-Greek. "And in that same period, we had the code critical of not having ambulances available. That is very, very worrisome."
NDP focus on housing
It's been 11 years since Pam Birdsall won the seat for the NDP for the first and only time.
Smith said the NDP is offering a platform that helps ordinary voters, like a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
"People don't feel like their MLA advocates for them. And you look at an issue like housing in our district. We never hear our MLA talk about that. And yet it's huge," Smith said.
"We have people who are homeless in this district … they're in the woods. They're at the parks, camped permanently. And our MLA does not make these issues visible. She does not bring them to Halifax."