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Candidates busy on last day of campaigning ahead of Dartmouth South byelection

WATCH: It was a busy day of campaigning in the riding of Dartmouth South, as candidates had one final push before Tuesday’s byelection. Rebecca Lau reports.

DARTMOUTH – It was a busy day of campaigning in the riding of Dartmouth South, as candidates had one final push before Tuesday’s byelection.

The seat has been vacant since the death of Liberal MLA Allan Rowe in March and Liberal candidate Tim Rissesco says that leaves “big shoes to fill.”

“I’m pitching to voters that we can continue some of the great things that Stephen McNeil and the late Allan Rowe started in this constituency,” he said, while canvassing on Pleasant Street.

“We talked a long time about a new school and we talked a long time about renovating the Dartmouth General [Hospital] and that work only started when we elected a Liberal MLA here.”
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But Rissesco is also finding himself explaining and defending the Province’s highly-controversial changes to the film tax credit. It’s a hot topic his opponents have also noticed on the doorsteps.

“I think a lot of [constituents] see [the byelection] as an opportunity to send a message to the McNeil government,” said PC candidate Gord Gamble, who was joined by party leader Jamie Baillie while canvassing neighbourhoods on Monday.

“Those who were directly or indirectly affected by the film tax credit definitely are impacted and feels this byelection gives them that opportunity.”

Gamble is the only candidate in this byelection who also ran in the 2013 election.

Prior to Rowe’s win that year, the riding was held by the NDP and the party’s candidate is hopeful they can regain the seat.

“There is a lot of discontent and people just feeling a sense of uncertainty about the way this government has been going, particularly with the budget,” said Marian Mancini.

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“The film tax credit cut has been a big issue in Dartmouth South. I’m hearing that quite a lot and I’m hearing a lot of people say, ‘what are we going to do to keep our young people here?’ And that flows into the film tax credit – the implications from that cut.”

Reynold Gregor/Global News

Meanwhile, independent candidate Charlene Gagnon says she is running a more grassroots campaign that isn’t constrained by party rules. She says her goal over the past few weeks has been to start a conversation about different political models and she hopes to bring that style to the legislature.

“[I’m] bringing light to to the fact that the party system does really kind of inhibit real representation because of all of the challenges that MLAs have in voting for what the constituents want as opposed to what their party wants them to do,” Gagnon said.
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Regardless of tomorrow’s byelection outcome, Gagnon hopes residents will simply go out and vote. Byelections traditionally do not have high voter turnout rates and the summer season has been slow for all the candidates in terms of canvassing.

“I’d really like to see a lot of people get out to vote just so that whoever is elected is done with a solid mandate to fill for the next year and a half to two years until the general election is called in 2017.”

Two other byelections will be held on Tuesday in Cape Breton. The ridings of Cape Breton Centre and Sydney-Whitney Pier were left vacant by the retirements of NDP MLAs Frank Corbett and Gordie Gosse.

Pollster Don Mills from Corporate Research Associates agrees it looks as if the byelection is a low priority for constituents. He also says it doesn’t appear as if there are any pressing issues, nor will the result impact the House too much.

He is, however, interested to see how the NDP will fair.

“We certainly have seen a resurgence in support of the NDP recently. That should help them in the two Cape Breton seats in particular. It may even help them in Dartmouth so that’s what I’m going to be watching for – are those numbers going to translate into getting those seats back in the NDP column,” Mills said.

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