Nova Scotia

West Nova swing riding between Liberals and Conservatives

From Acadian fishing ports to the apple orchards of the Annapolis Valley, people in the Nova Scotia riding of West Nova have only ever elected a Liberal or Conservative.

Riding spans Acadian fishing ports to the apple orchards of the Annapolis Valley

Liberal Jason Deveau turns around for a friendly exchange with his rival Conservative candidate Chris d'Entremont in Yarmouth, N.S. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

They dutifully trade attack lines crafted by their respective national campaign headquarters.

But a chance encounter between the Liberal and Conservative candidates in West Nova reveals a more good natured side to the election contest in the rural Nova Scotia riding.

Liberal Jason Deveau is on Main Street in Yarmouth doing an interview with CBC News when Conservative opponent Chris d'Entremont pulls up behind the wheel of his bright blue campaign pickup truck.

They immediately start heckling each other.

"Nice truck," says Deveau. "It would be nicer in red."

The two men joke and laugh before d'Entremont eventually drives away.

If history is any guide, one of them will be the next MP in West Nova.

The riding has only ever elected a Liberal or Conservative.

Conservatives hope to break the Liberal stronghold in Atlantic Canada by winning rural ridings like West Nova. (Elections Canada/CBC)

A day later, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was in Annapolis Royal addressing a small crowd of supporters.

The early evening campaign stop in the historic town on the Bay of Fundy was a chance to cast the leader's spotlight on d'Entremont and rev up the team.

"We're going to know what kind of night we're having on Oct. 21 when we see what happens right here in West Nova," Scheer says to a round of cheers and applause.

After making remarks to the faithful — and a handful of protestors demanding action on climate change — Scheer and d'Entremont put up a few lawn signs in town.

After 16 years in the Nova Scotia legislature, Chris d'Entremont wants to jump to federal politics. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Conservatives hope to break the Liberal stronghold in Atlantic Canada by winning rural ridings like West Nova.

Like all 11 ridings in Nova Scotia, it went Liberal in 2015 when lawyer Colin Fraser took 62 per cent of the vote. But after one term, Fraser is giving up politics to return to his Yarmouth law practice.

Today, West Nova is one of five ridings in Nova Scotia where the Liberal incumbent is not reoffering.

It's also one of three ridings in the province where a Progressive Conservative member of the provincial legislature has stepped down to try to make the jump to federal politics.

'Elbows up'

First elected in 2003, d'Entremont was until very recently MLA for Argyle, a provincial seat located on the southern end of the federal riding.

"I think it's time for rural Canada to be noticed by our national government," d'Entremont says.

"We have infrastructure that needs attention, wharves that aren't capable of accepting the fishery that we have today. It's time we have someone who can put his elbows up and fight for what's right for West Nova."

Deveau says d'Entremont "doesn't know what he's getting into" by joining the federal Conservatives.

"I personally think that Andrew Scheer and the western conservatives are quite dangerous for our country," he says. "I'm not sure what this country would look like if we had four or eight years under a Scheer government."

Deveau admits d'Entremont can hardly be classified as a hardcore right winger. 

And with five straight provincial election wins, d'Entremont is not a scary figure to voters in his part of the riding.

Liberal Jason Deveau ran for the party nomination and lost in 2014 but stayed involved, serving as executive assistant to MP Colin Fraser. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

But d'Entremont does have a response for voters mistrustful of the federal Conservatives.

"We have not been a part of the Conservative tent since the last election," he says.

"My discussions with Andrew Scheer has been quite honestly that we need to have everybody inside that tent talking. So not only do we need to have the different views, we need to have guys like me in there."

No strangers

The two candidates are no strangers to each other.

Deveau lost the Liberal party nomination to Colin Fraser in 2015 and spent the last four years as Fraser's executive assistant.

During that time, he and d'Entremont worked together on issues of mutual concern in the riding.

That familiarity might explain the kibitzing they exchanged on Main Street.

But the fact is, each stands in the other's way. And there are others with hopes for West Nova.

NDP candidate skips week of campaigning

The New Democrats have never done better than third in West Nova, sometimes edging over 20 per cent of the vote, but never a threat to win.

In 2015, they polled seven per cent.

This election, retired health-care lab worker Matthew Dubois is running for the party.

Matthew Dubois is the NDP candidate in West Nova. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

"I want people to know that I'm quite willing to work hard in the constituency because 90 per cent of the job of an MP is in the constituency, " he says.

Matt Dubois spent the first full week of the campaign attending the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival in Halifax.

The film buff, who has been going to the festival for 35 years, wasn't willing to give it up for an election.

"When I got the nomination, I told them no matter when their writ drops, I'm going to be in Halifax this week," he said.

Green going for Greens

Wellness coach, business person and volunteer Judy Green is running for the Green Party.

"What I'm hearing at the door is so many people say you know it's the same old, same old. It's red, blue, red, blue, red and blue," she said.

"It's like a pendulum swinging back and forth, but there really is no difference. What my message to them is that it can be different if you get involved."

Judy Green is a business person, wellness coach, volunteer and former Canadian Forces airframe technician. She's urging voters to get involved. (Steve Lawrence/CBC) (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

People's Party candidate

Chad Hudson, the People's Party of Canada candidate in West Nova, withdrew from the race on the final day for candidates to declare for the upcoming federal election, saying he was "troubled" by the party's recent direction.

He said he objected to Leader Maxime Bernier's dismissal of teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

"He is making the decision to go after an autistic 16-year-old young woman who, you know, whether we agree with her or not, we have to respect what she is doing. It's a tremendous thing that she's achieved and she certainly is an inspiring figure."

Hudson said the final straw was a brawl between PPC supporters and left-wing activists outside a Bernier event in Hamilton.

"That reminds me very much of what we see south of the border. That kind of Trumpism, that sort of heated divided politics that we're now importing into this country," he said.

In an earlier interview, while he was still a candidate, Hudson said he had been "attracted to some of the policies in the party."

"We're looking at ending foreign aid right now," he said. "We spend billions of dollars in foreign countries. We're building roads and hospitals in Africa when we have deteriorating roads right here at home."

Chad Hudson says he was attracted to common sense polices of PPC. He says too much money is being spent on foreign aid in Africa when roads in Canada need fixing. (Steve Lawrence/CBC) (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

It's not clear if there is a candidate for the Rhinoceros party. Nick Archer was listed as the candidate on the party's website, but is no longer.  

Powder keg issues await winner

If the riding holds true to form, Deveau or d'Entremont will inherit a couple of sensitive issues unique to the riding and it's all-important lobster fishery.

One is the conflict over Indigenous lobster fishing in the area.

Twenty years ago, courts ruled that First Nations have the right to fish for a moderate living, but it's never been defined.

In the meantime, Indigenous fishermen are being accused of using the government-licensed food, social and ceremonial fishery as a cloak for a commercial lobster fishery when the season is closed to everybody else.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says this fishery is being abused and it has triggered protests from commercial fishermen in the area.

The cost of getting into the lobster fishery is high, particularly in southwestern Nova Scotia. (CBC )

"There seems to be a commercial aspect to the Aboriginal fishery and part of it is that there are certain buyers who are still willing to buy illegal lobsters," says Deveau.

Asked whether it should be allowed, he responds: "Not commercially in my opinion. Certainly a commercial fishery should be in the same season as everyone else."

D'Entremont blames DFO for dragging its feet for not settling the issue. He called for more talks.

Candidates urge caution

And then there are the side deals between lobster fishermen and buyers.

These so-called controlling agreements have become part of the fabric of the fishery, even though they are an attempt to get around Canada's owner-operator policy designed to prevent a corporate takeover of the inshore fleets.

The agreements are most common in southwest Nova Scotia, where the cost of getting into the lobster fishery is expensive.

In some cases, buyers will provide financing in return for a written guarantee for the catch.

This year, the Trudeau government enshrined the owner-operator policy in law, giving it more teeth.

Lobster fishing boats head out past Cape Forchu, N.S., on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (The Canadian Press)

Both the Liberal and Conservative candidates said changes should be gradual.

"I think there has to be some caution taken in moving forward. If you are starting to unravel some of these things there is people's livelihoods that are there entangled into that," says d'Entremont.

Deveau is also cautious.

"I think we need to give them some time during a compliance period, whether that's 12 months, 18 months, two years, to get in line with the regulations once they're enacted, so that everyone is compliant," says Deveau.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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