For years, elections in the Sackville-Cobequid riding have been a bit of a foregone conclusion as the NDP held a tight grasp on the area. But with the departure of long-serving MLA Dave Wilson, other provincial parties are vying to wrestle it away in a hotly-contested byelection.
When the 2017 general election dust settled the Liberals held a majority at 27 seats, followed by the PC Party as the official Opposition with 17.
The NDP brought seven members to the legislature, including Wilson, but with Lenore Zann recently stepping away from the party to sit as an independent, their ranks have dropped to five.
“It’s important for the NDP to regain the riding as it’s a traditional riding,” indicated Dalhousie University sociology and social anthropology Howard Ramos. “And the role that they’re playing in the government as a reduced role.”
“If they do secure it, it’s not time to celebrate with fireworks either,” Ramos continued. “It’s just holding a seat that the party’s held for a number of years.”
All five of the province’s political parties are attempting to pick up the riding.
David F. Boyd represents the Atlantica Party, Steve Craig is the PC nominee, the Green Party candidate is Anthony Edmonds, Lara Fawthrop is attempting to regain the seat for the NDP, while Michel Hindlet hopes to secure it for the governing Liberals.
While the New Democrats have held the riding for 15 years they aren’t the area’s only well-known horse in the race, as the PC’s Craig is a current Halifax City Councillor.
“Name recognition always helps in our region and certainly that’s going to make a difference in an NDP riding,” explained Ramos. “But it’s hard to play with the trend and the momentum of history of a riding that’s been held so long by the NDP.”
“It’s hard to gauge whether that’s going to be in and of itself enough to push the riding to Conservative,” Ramos said.
Sackville-Cobequid is home to nearly 15,000 eligible voters. Some 1,100 have already cast their ballots in advance polls, a number that’s risen by 200 since 2017’s election, although no formal advance station was held in the riding.
Ramos believes the byelection will be closely monitored to get a sense of where voting trends are moving toward, both provincially and to a lesser extent federally.
“It’s an important riding to look at though in terms of gauging voter turnout, in terms of how the Conservatives play given that they’ve been polling a little bit better,” Ramos explained.
“When you look at confidence of leadership, the lower numbers that McNeil has been getting, and it’s also a bit of a referendum on how the Conservatives are doing as well as the NDP,” he said. “It’s worth watching to see if the Liberals have a respectable showing or not.”
“It’s a bit of a midterm bellwether to give a sense of where people are feeling. I’m not putting too much stock into it having a relationship with the federal election however I’m sure every federal party will be watching it.”