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South Shore-St. Margarets candidates: Richard Clark (CPC), Alex Godbold (NDP), Bernadette Jordan (Liberal), Richard Biggar (Green)
What’s happening in this battleground riding?
South Shore-St. Margarets is a traditionally safe Conservative seat. For decades, the riding has been won by Conservatives or their Progressive Conservative predecessors, with the sole recent exception of Liberal Derek Wells’ victory in 1993. The riding includes much of southern Nova Scotia, a region which has gained notability for its significant population decrease in recent years and for having a high median age. South Shore-St. Margarets includes parts of rural Nova Scotia as well as parts of Halifax.
With the retirement of Conservative MP Gerald Keddy, the riding has been viewed as a strong opportunity for an opposition win. In part, the riding has been viewed as winnable because of Conservative candidate Richard Clark’s age. More broadly, while Atlantic Canadians have sometimes been identified as relatively conservative in their voting behaviour, the region is also known for its voters’ prioritization of candidate characteristics and family loyalties.
Alex Godbold (NDP) and Bernadette Jordan (Liberal) will aim to unseat Clark in what has been identified as a standout three-way race. Currently, ThreeHundredEight.com is projecting a Liberal win, though it has been the NDP that has come closest to defeating Keddy in recent elections (36 per cent to Keddy’s 42 per cent in 2011 and a closer race in 2008).
Richard Biggar will be running for the Green party, while other candidates include the Communist Party of Canada’s Ryan Barry and independent Trevor Bruhm.
For Dylan Penner at the Council of Canadians’ Democracy Campaign, South Shore-St. Margarets has stood out as a priority in its effort to increase voter turnout.
“We selected ridings based on a number of factors, including whether they were likely to be close races, where we had Council chapters and supporters, and whether there were reports of voter suppression calls in 2011,” Penner told rabble. “Whether there are one or more campuses in or near a riding was also a factor as we’ve been focusing on increasing young voter turnout as a key part of our campaign,” he added.
Penner went on to explain that their focus has included door-to-door canvassing, engaging voters at festivals and on campus.
“[The riding] came up pretty early for a number of reasons. We’ve got a very active and strong chapter there. It was pretty clear early on that it was going to be a close race… This is one of those ridings that could have a different outcome on October 19.”
Danny Mallett of the Canadian Labour Congress agreed. “There’s three parties that are fighting for that seat… It’s a potential pick-up.”
Penner also highlighted the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a motivator for those looking to unseat the Conservatives. He called the TPP “a potential disaster” for rural communities, noting the importance of agriculture for southern Nova Scotia and the high level of engagement the COC has found at farmers’ markets.
Biggar attributed lacklustre turnout in part to Canada’s voting system.
“In this system of first-past-the-post voting there can only be one winner. That discourages the voter,” he told rabble. “It’s quite archaic [and] over 60 per cent of the electorate doesn’t get a fair shake. We have to make our voices heard.”
Ryan Barry, the Communist Party of Canada candidate, agreed, telling rabble that “[the] system leaves people feeling like their vote doesn’t count” and lamenting what he identified as growing voter apathy.
Godbold, the NDP candidate for South Shore-St. Margarets, told rabble that disaffection with the Conservative government has created a strong appetite for change.
“After 10 years of the Harper government, with its countless scandals, weakest economic growth since the Depression, rising unemployment and eight straight deficits, people are looking for change in Ottawa,” he told rabble.
Godbold went on to cite the priorities of the NDP government, including proportional representation, as well as the challenges faced by voters in South Shore-St. Margarets and the NDP’s chances for success there.
“In South Shore-St. Margarets, the NDP has a strong base historically. We ran a strong second in the last federal election; the Liberals got half as many votes as the NDP. …[We are] in a very strong position to defeat Harper.”
If you’re interested in what happened in this riding in the 2011 election, look no further:
CPC 17,948; 43.14 per cent
NDP 15,033; 36.14 per cent
Liberals 7,037; 16.92 per cent
Greens 1,579; 3.80 per cent
Cory Collins is a nonfiction writer, visual artist, poet and contributor to rabble.ca and other publications. His poetry, criticism and art work have appeared in the Island Review, Lemon Hound, The Telegram, Burnaby Now, Off the Coast and Cordite Poetry Review, while he has written on current events, economic news and political affairs for Aslan Media, People’s World, Bee Culture and Canadian Dimension. He lives in St. John’s and can be contacted via Twitter @coryGcollins or corycollins.ca.