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Nova Scotia holds two byelections as governing Liberals hold slim majority

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Polls opened in two Nova Scotia byelections Tuesday that will see the governing Liberals try to make headway in ridings that have been opposition strongholds over the last decade.

The Liberals are attempting to build on their slim majority in the 51-seat legislature, although Premier Stephen McNeil conceded it won’t be easy given the recent electoral history of the two ridings – Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River and Cape Breton Centre.

“They are seats where it’s been a long time for the party,” said McNeil. “But we have two good candidates who have deep roots … so we are looking forward to the results.”

Heading into the byelections the Liberals hold 26 seats in the House of Assembly, the Progressive Conservatives 17, the NDP 4, and there are two Independents.

READ MORE: Future of Nova Scotia NDP uncertain as byelections expected for previously held ridings

The Liberals lost a seat last month with the abrupt resignation from caucus by Hugh MacKay following an impaired driving charge.

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The NDP is trying to retain the Cape Breton seat formerly held by Tammy Martin, who recently resigned for health reasons.

Cape Breton Centre has been held by the New Democrats for most of the past 20 years and party Leader Gary Burrill was in the riding doing last-minute door knocking on Tuesday.

Claudia Chender, the NDP house leader, said it’s key for her party to do well in both contests.

“Funding is tied to the seats we have here (the legislature) – we have more staff we have more resources so we’d love to have more colleagues join us,” she said.

The race in Cape Breton Centre could be close with the Liberals running Dave Wilton, who held the seat for two years before losing to Martin by a margin of 796 votes in the 2017 provincial election.

Kendra Coombes, a Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor, will try to retain the seat for the New Democrats. The Tories are running Louie Piovesan, a municipal public works employee. Adrianna MacKinnon is the Green Party candidate.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston said his party is also hoping to make progress in ridings it’s been shut out of in recent history.

“We feel good about the effort and the quality of the candidates, and the people will decide,” said Houston.

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The Truro-area seat has been open for six months after former NDP member Lenore Zann, who had held the riding since 2009, left it to run – successfully – for the federal Liberals.

Zann won Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River for the NDP in 2017 by a margin of 943 votes over the Progressive Conservative candidate.

The New Democrats are trying to re-take the seat with Kathleen Kevany, a professor in the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University’s Truro campus, while local Credit Union director Dave Ritcey is carrying the Tory banner in a riding that had been a P.C. stronghold prior to Zann.

Retired school teacher and principal Allan Kennedy is the Liberal candidate, while St. Francis Xavier University psychologist Ivan Drouin is running for the Green Party and contractor Matthew Rushton is the Atlantica Party candidate.

Polls are open Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2020.

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