STEWIACKE – The riding of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has not been kind to the provincial Liberal party.
The red sea has never washed over the area since the riding was formed in 1993. Since then, it’s been the Conservatives who have dominated, only losing grip in 2009 when Gary Burrill of the New Democrats was selected to represent the region in province house with 48 per cent of the vote.
So can Tom Martin finally break the goose egg for the Liberals this fall? The 56-year-old Dutch Settlement resident certainly thinks so.
“I’m not into crystal balls or anything like that but I know from the response I’m getting at doors and on the phones, there’s a general upset with the NDP government,” Martin said Friday while campaigning in Stewiacke with Liberal leader Stephen McNeil. “And there’s a strong level of discontent with Stephen Harper. I think people in this riding are very much into their communities and they’re very frustrated.”
Martin and McNeil stopped in the morning at a Gays River farm owned by Derek and Lori Mostert to have a look at the province’s first anaerobic digester, which converts biodegradable waste into enough electricity to power 300 homes.
The pair then made their way to Tim Hortons in Stewiacke to talk with voters before McNeil continued on to Truro and finished the day in Tatamagouche.
The Liberals have barely showed up on the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley radar. The party has finished no better than third in the five elections held since its formation, with Brooke Taylor of the Progressive Conservatives coming out on top on four occasions. Taylor never had less than 63.85 per cent of the vote during that time.
In each election, the Liberals have fielded a different candidate, switching from Leo Stacey to Joan Barnhill to Carolyn Matthews and Willie Versteeg.
But none of that deterred Martin from running this time around.
“Anyone who knows me knows that would have just the opposite effect,” he said with a smile. “Obviously we haven’t found the right candidate yet. But with party politics there’s a lot of different factors that come in to play. It could be the candidate, it could be the party, it could be the premier or the prime minister. If one person messes up, or loses the respect of the voting public, we all wear that.”
McNeil said the riding has a history of voting for the individual rather than the party, and reiterated the 13,640 eligible voters made good selections with Taylor because he was “a well-respected guy and a straight shooter.”
McNeil’s theory was backed up by Earl Tanner, an 89-year-old resident of Hardwood Lands.
“The candidates have a lot to do with it,” Tanner said. “I really think people are a little impartial and if you see somebody doing their job right, no matter what his religion or his politics are, that’s the way I vote anyway.”
McNeil said he feels Martin holds those qualities for his party.
“I think that’s what Tom brings to the equation for us,” he said. “Tom has worked hard for the community. He’s a great candidate.”
And Tanner said he doesn’t see that impartiality taking a hike anytime soon, adding this year’s race in the riding is shaping up to be a close one when voters go to the polls Oct. 8.
“I think there’s going to be more who vote Liberal this time than there was last time,” he said. “I don’t see, here, any definite leader one way or the other and the margin might be so small that it won’t take much to flip-flop it one way or the other.”
On Twitter: @tdnmatt
Current MLA: Gary Burrill, NDP
Area: 3,060 square km
1993 – Ken Stretch, PC
1998 – Brooke Taylor, PC
1999 – Brooke Taylor, PC
2003 – Brooke Taylor, PC
2006 – Brooke Taylor, PC
2009 – Gary Burrill, NDP