By Debbi Harvie
and Aaron Cameron
Shared services, infrastructure, seniors, youth retention, jobs and economic development were key areas candidates in the New Glasgow municipal election spoke about Tuesday night at Glasgow Square.
Sixteen individuals running as councillors could have attended, instead, four from Ward 1 attended, three from Ward 2, and all six from Ward 3 in addition to three of four mayoral candidates.
The New Glasgow event was the third of seven Pints & Politics nights taking place in each community throughout the county leading up to the municipal elections on October 15.
Venus Bishop attended the New Glasgow session of Pints & Politics hosted by Pulse Pictou County for a unique reason.
“I live in Stellarton. We moved here from Newfoundland nine years ago and we wouldn’t live anywhere else. (Pictou County) is the best community.”
The Stellarton resident was curious to learn about the candidates in the other municipalities because she feels whether people like it or not, amalgamation is coming.
“I wanted to see (who) the people of New Glasgow have running for them for council. Amalgamation is, as much as we keep turning our heads away from it, the day is coming. I’d like to get to know the candidates in the other municipalities and get their take on the issues.”
As Bishop and Deanna Mohamed, resident of New Glasgow’s Ward 2 noted, it’s the voters’ responsibility to be educated on the candidates and their platforms.
“I heard everything I wanted to hear,” says Bishop. “(The candidates) touched on youth and the supports needed for them and for the elderly.”
She says all of the municipalities need a strong mayor and council when the amalgamation issue comes back around.
“We need people to stand up and say, ‘We need to get this done’.”
Mohamed was interested in what the Ward 2 candidates had to say in particular.
“I wanted to hear their plans and their direction. I am vested in the betterment of the county. I was the poster girl for amalgamation and I want to hear that forward thinking and progress in the candidates. As a parent, I want to keep the youth here. My parents are active seniors and I want to see more seniors being active and encouraged to participate in the community.”
She says she was disappointed, however, that there were some Ward 2 candidates that did not make it to the event.
“Both of the current incumbents did a great job, you can tell they have experience, but I will seek the opportunity to meet with those candidates that were not here. It’s up to the residents, it’s up to me to be an informed voter. I need to do my research.”
Another New Glasgow resident, Susan Green, wanted to know the candidates’ views on the one per cent deed transfer tax.
“I am representing the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors and I want to know whether council would consider doing away with the deed transfer tax for first-time home buyers … If not, I recognize the financial restrictions so would council consider spreading out the payment over five years to make it more affordable?”
Doug Walsh, who was also in attendance, felt the evening gave him a clearer view of the candidates and allowed him more knowledge into their campaigns, readying him for the upcoming election.
At Westville’s Pints & Politics series on Tuesday at the Whitetail Pub, all three mayoral candidates – Roger MacKay, Alvah Mayo, and Pat Ryan – took part as well as both District 14 school board candidates, Ron Marks and Kevin Waller.
All four of the town’s councillors have been acclaimed and were not in attendance.
Beyond the full roster of candidates, the event was sparsely attended, with eight non-candidates in attendance.
“We obviously would have liked to see more people turn out,” said Pulse’s Brendan Coyle. “All we can do is try and host these events and hope for attendance.”
Coyle noted that Westville’s turnout was on par with Stellarton’s the night prior.
Neither Coyle nor his colleague Joel Cock saw the session’s turnout as a reflection of voter interest.
“I think historically interest in municipal elections is fairly low to begin with,” Coyle said. “That’s why we’re hosting these events, to hopefully boost some interest in municipal level politics. I hope this isn’t a reflection but I guess you never know.”
“There’s always lots of factors that play into attendance that way,” said Cock, “especially during the week may always be a challenge. But I certainly hope not, as someone who is active in that age group (Ed. the 20-40 demographic). I hope that that’s not a reflection of the interest here in the county, and I really don’t think it is.
“I hope that the true election date will speak more volume than that,” Cock added.
Incumbent Roger MacKay told the crowd he believes “the Town of Westville has come ahead in the eight years that I’ve been at the helm,” while giving credit to council and staff for improving Westville’s image.
“As you recall there was numerous years the Town of Westville unfortunately, for some unknown reason, was always getting bad press and the last eight years I think we’ve had some really positive stuff,” MacKay said.
Mayoral candidate Alvah Mayo outlined a bit of his work experience as a “civil servant in Ottawa” as well working in IT with Microsoft. While Mayo agreed with MacKay’s hope for a clean campaign and would not question the “integrity or character” of his rivals, he did work to set himself apart from the town’s current leadership.
“I do have a slightly different vision of how things are going from the incumbent,” Mayo said. “To my mind, I’m looking at what happened the last 10 years, 20 years, even going back further than that and I’m seeing challenges unmet.”
Fellow candidate Pat Ryan explained himself to be interested in community development, which he saw as being tied to economic development.
Ryan likened the Town of Westville to a car, with its citizens serving as the engine and tax dollars as the fuel.
“Every so often you need a new spark plug,” Ryan said, “and I think now is the time in Westville because I’m really interested in community development.
“Who do you want as your driver?” Ryan asked. “And do we need a fresh start?”
Ron Marks, District 14 school board candidate, introduced himself as a retired chemical engineer. He expressed a desire to see an improvement in the quality of reading and math skills in the county and stated that we “need all of our graduates to be college ready.”
Kevin Waller, also a candidate for District 14 school board, cited his three children as his inspiration for offering, noting that due to their ages all three attend different schools in the county. Waller also cited the apparent “lack of trust between the community and the school board” and his desire to correct that lack of trust as his motivation for running.
Pints & Politics continues tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. at the Trenton Legion and Fat Tony’s in Pictou.
Venus and Paul Bishop chat with Deanna Mohamed at the New Glasgow Pints & Politics event Tuesday hosted by Pulse Pictou County. (Harvie photo)