Blair will be sworn in for the returning officer for Truro-Bible Hill during a special ceremony at the Red Chamber of Province House. Two other local women, Sharon O’Leary and Lorraine Dawson, will also be sworn in for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and Colchester North, respectively.
“I first started as a returning officer in 1998 … in February,” said Blair. “One of the big changes is when I was the successful candidate in the competition (in 1998), I got a phone call when the writ came down. I scrambled to find an office and to find the staff. The writ came down on Saturday and I had to be open that following Monday.”
Blair said she was able to furnish an office by renting furniture from businessman Dave Yould.
“But I had no training, no information and no files. The only thing they gave me was a copy of the Elections Act.”
When she was appointed the returning officer the second time, Blair said she found out by a letter in the mail. Today will be the first time she’s attended a special ceremony. Lieutenant Governor Brigadier-General The Honourable J.J. Grant, CMM, ONS, CD (Ret’d) will be on hand for the swearing-in ceremony.
“Some of the returning officers will receive special recognition for the quality service of value,” said Blair, noting she has received notice she will be one of those recognized by chief electoral officer Richard Temporale.
When Blair first heard about the returning officer’s position becoming available back in the summer of 1997, it was something she was interested in from the start.
“My position with the government had just ended that July. It was very much a full-time career and I was having a difficult time not doing something.”
The idea of not having a political position appealed to Blair so she applied for the job.
“I really do enjoy it. You get hooked on it,” she said. “You’re very involved in the (election) process and I like working with people.”
When she started in the position in 1998, Blair didn’t have street keys.
“I drove the streets on the entire district, up one side and down the other, writing down the numbers of the houses,” she said. Since then, she’s been able to get civic maps for Truro and various places in Colchester County, such as Bible Hill, but still had to put her own addresses on them.
“Now it’s all computerized, but it wasn’t then,” she said.
Other big changes between 1998 and now include ways voter information cards are sent out (then was by returning officer peeling and sticking address labels, now they’re all sent out from the main office), the number of days between the writ being dropped and when the polls close (36 days then compared to 31 now), as well as target enumeration now instead of full.
“There are also a lot of changes in the polls. The goal is to have people vole and we allow them the opportunity to vote in as many ways as possible,” she said.
“Before, people voted at the polls, through special polls and also advanced polls. We no longer have special polls, but we also have polls in the returning officer’s office. People can vote for about 29 of those 31 days now.”
Dawson and Blair planned to travel together to Halifax for the ceremony, leaving last night because of the weather.
Dawson has been a returning officer since the 1980s, while O’Leary is new to the fold.
“Sharon’s only had a bit of the training so far, but she’ll start training this weekend,” said Blair who is a trainer.