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Byelection vote set for Tuesday in Nova Scotia riding of Preston – Halifax


A byelection set for Tuesday in the Nova Scotia riding of Preston will see the province’s Opposition Liberals try to retain a seat they’ve held for most of the last 20 years.

The contest in the electoral district near Halifax was made necessary when Liberal Angela Simmonds stepped down in April, about 18 months after first being elected to office.

The campaign made headlines last week when Dorothy Rice, Nova Scotia’s chief electoral officer, ordered the Liberals to remove signs and other campaign material she said contained false statements concerning a potential dump in the riding’s Lake Echo area.

When the Liberals refused to comply, Rice called in the RCMP to assist with a formal investigation under the provincial Elections Act.

The order followed a complaint by the Progressive Conservatives over what they say is misleading material wrongly asserting that Premier Tim Houston is doing nothing to stop plans for the dump.

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But in an interview Saturday, Liberal Carlo Simmons said his campaign wasn’t backing away from the landfill issue, adding there remains distrust in the community over potential plans.

“People believe that something is still going to happen,” he said. “That’s why they (residents) had signs in their community before we even put signs up.”

Simmons is one of five candidates who hit the hustings when the byelection was called on July 7. He believes the Liberals can capitalize on what he contends is dissatisfaction with the record of Houston’s Tory government.

A shortage of family doctors and a lack of affordable housing are top of mind for voters, Simmons said, especially in the riding’s predominantly Black communities of North Preston, East Preston and Cherry Brook.

“The concerns that people have are broad and I want to be the one to speak and advocate for them,” he said.

The Tories, meanwhile, were also asked by Rice to clarify signs that implored local residents to vote against the Liberal carbon tax by inserting the words “federal Liberal.”

For her part, Progressive Conservative candidate Twila Grosse said she was doing her best to “drown out the noise” around the electoral controversies.

Grosse said she remains focused on doorstep issues such as higher gas prices and trying to convince voters on the advantages of sending a representative to the legislature who would immediately join the ranks of the governing party.

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“My pitch to them is this: I would be your voice and have that seat at the government table, so I would be able to bring your concerns right to the premier,” she said.

Grosse, a former airport executive, said she believes the riding has been neglected in the past and needs its concerns in areas such as health care and economic development addressed.

Colter Simmonds of the NDP is vying for the seat for a second time, having run for his party in 2021.

Simmonds believes his track record of service in the community as an advocate and basketball coach can help make a difference at the polls this time around. He said his pitch has been that his party is the only one that focuses on “everyday people.”

“Every party is going to talk about the issues they are going to fix, but you need somebody that has been trying to fix the issues in society,” he said.

The two other candidates in the race have been positioning themselves as alternatives with perspectives apart from those of the three main political parties.

Charles “Bobby” Taylor, who is running for the newly registered Nova Scotians United, said voters have been receptive to a more independent approach. Taylor said voters generally aren’t “100 per cent anything” when it comes to political affiliation.

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“The fact there’s a party that’s saying it doesn’t matter what side you are on, it’s about working together to fix the problems we have – everybody can get behind that because it’s a true message,” he said.

For Green Party Leader Anthony Edmonds, who doesn’t live in the district, the race has been about trying to bolster the profile of a party that has never elected a member to the legislature.

“The reception has been quite positive,” said Edmonds. “The Green values of sustainability and of participatory democracy really resonate with people in the area.”

In the 2021 provincial election, the Liberals captured 43 per cent of the votes in the riding, with the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats splitting the remaining ballots cast.

Heading into Tuesday’s vote the Progressive Conservatives hold 31 seats in the provincial legislature, followed by the Liberals with 16 seats, the New Democrats with six and one Independent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2023.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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