Election 2019

Central Nova, Cape Breton-Canso stay Liberal red

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH -- Both ridings covering Guysborough County communities stayed Liberal red as Monday's election results came in, with Cape Breton-Canso seeing a tight race for the first time in many years.

New Liberal candidate Mike Kelloway took Cape Breton-Canso with 16,097 votes to Conservative Alfie MacLeod's 14,478, with the NDP's Laurie Suitor attracting 6,258 votes. This was a much-watched race, largely due to the retirement of long-time Liberal MP Roger Cuzner and the local popularity of long-time provincial MLA MacLeod. The 1,619 gap between Liberal and Conservative votes was thin compared to the 25,917 spread in 2015 between Cuzner and Conservative challenger Adam Rodgers.

On Tuesday, Kelloway told The Journal that this race was always going to be close.

"Any time there is no incumbent there is an opportunity for any of the candidates to capitalize," he said. "I always believed in our team and it worked out well for us."

Kelloway said the race was a good one for voters in Cape Breton-Canso, with seven candidates and platforms to choose from.

"But I wish we had had more time to talk to people," he said, noting the "big geographic footprint" of the riding.

"In the coming weeks I'm going to meet with people and listen to people and show that your MP is going to be an MP for the entire riding, and I'm really looking forward to that...My sleeves are rolled up now and they will be rolled up until the next election."

Kelloway said he is "looking seriously" at having two offices in the riding, one in Cape Breton and one on the mainland.

"I believe you need access to a staff person and to your MP," he said. "The people in Canso deserve the same access as anyone else and I'm committed to being there."

In Central Nova, predictions of a very tight finish didn't materialize as incumbent Liberal Sean Fraser garnered 20,718 votes to Conservative George Canyon's 13,201. NDP candidate Betsy MacDonald finished third with 5,896 votes.

Following a national trend in Election 2019, the spread between Liberals and Conservatives also shrunk in Central Nova from the 2015 results, when Fraser defeated Conservative Fred Delorey by 14,491 votes.

The Journal spoke with Fraser shortly after he was declared winner Monday night.

"I feel terrific," Fraser enthused as supporters celebrated around him. "This is incredible and to have pulled this off for the first time here, back-to-back for someone who is not a Conservative…I'm not just proud of the team but I’m proud of the whole community.

"People took a chance on me last time and tonight they supported me again."

Fraser said his campaign team included several hundred people knocking on doors and making calls. In the next Parliament, Fraser said he looks forward to advancing a Liberal plan that responds to things he has heard on local doorsteps over the past four years "about healthcare, the environment, and an economy that works for everyone."

Rob Wolf of Lochiel Lake was campaign manager for Canyon in Central Nova. Reflecting on the result during an interview Tuesday morning, he said Conservative candidates in Nova Scotia typically come from the Progressive Conservative tradition and don't always fit with voters' impression of the Conservative Party of Canada as more socially conservative.

"I think there's a disconnect there," he said. Commenting on Canyon's campaign, Wolf said the reception was excellent.

"Whenever George spoke with people he had an instant connection," he said. "People who heard what he had to say were very impressed."

Wolf acknowledged that Canyon's late arrival in the race -- after the selected candidate dropped out -- didn't help his effort. There was also local backlash at the party's selection of Canyon as the candidate, instead of having a new vote by party members or choosing one of the earlier contenders.

As with many candidates and voters in Election 2019, Wolf lamented the widespread negativity of the campaign.

"That doesn't make it easy for people to step up and put their name on the ballot...What will bring good people to politics is when people and parties work together."

The Journal was unable to reach Cape Breton-Canso Conservative candidate Alfie MacLeod for comment by press time.