Districts 5, 6 & 8: Bernard, Lynch & McDougall

District 5

Nadine Bernard

Nadine Bernard, a resident of District 6, began by explaining her decision to run in District 5:

Nadine Bernard, District 5

Nadine Bernard, District 5

[I] figured District 5 would be…more my territory for a few reasons. I do anti-poverty work, I sit on the Cape Breton poverty commission here, but I also sit on the Coalition on Poverty in Nova Scotia, so I work a lot in the North End, I do a lot of grass roots work…I knew all those agencies there and I sat on so many committees, so everybody downtown already knew who I was. And I worked at TD Canada Trust for two years…And in Membertou [which is included in District 5]…I’ve a great working relationship with [senior business development advisor] Dan Christmas…

The mother of three does consulting work and is currently working with the Every Woman’s Resource Centre,  on the sexual violence strategy for the province:

[I]t’s a community-led work plan that helps that community…prevent and respond to sexual violence.

But Bernard has been laying the groundwork for this run at municipal council for some time:

I had put my name forward a couple of years ago to seek the [Liberal] nomination for the by-election for Sydney-Whitney Pier against Derek Mombourquette, so that was my actual first experience, knowing I wasn’t going to win but I did it for three reasons: for name recognition; to show that I was a serious game player, that I wanted to be involved in politics; and number three, I think people need to hear and see if you’re articulate, if you know your points, you’re knowledgable about the issues of the area—and it worked.

Bernard said the current council is stagnant and that it’s time for a change, even though “[w]e’re a community that doesn’t like change very often, and if we do it has to be in increments.”


Virtual single parents

Bernard sees District 5 as a microcosm of the CBRM—the same mix of “social classes, family dynamics…challenges.” Moreover, she said she herself is like many women in the CBRM who must deal with having her partner leave the province for work. Her own fiance, she said, has just returned to work after a six-month layoff, taking a job in British Columbia

We’re one of those couples that have to live the two lives…I wouldn’t see him, except for once every three months, but [with this job], I can see him every two weeks…

While he’s away, she joins the ranks of the “virtual single parents: “[W]e run the household, we do everything, we do all the parenting, the cooking and feeding, the routine…”

She said she’s actually participated in a study on the subject, conducted in Cape Breton and PEI, and is very interested to see the results.


Be realistic

If elected this fall, Bernard said her priority would be listening to the needs of the citizens—the ones who actually live here, rather than those we’re always hoping to attract:

There’s not going to be a miracle of 4,000 people who are going to rush in and say, ‘I’m going to live in the CBRM!’ I’m sorry, that’s not going to happen. If, in 50 years, that hasn’t happened, there’s no way it’s going to happen. You have to be realistic. So we have to start concentrating on meeting the needs [of] and actually listening to our citizens.

Many of those citizens would no doubt raise the issue of poverty and Bernard, who sits on the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the Advisory Council for Maintenance Enforcement, has ideas for tackling that:

[I]f 45% of our women aren’t receiving maintenance support, then what aren’t we doing to…enforce those things to be able to help our families here?…[I]f a mom…raising three kids…wants to go back to school,…wants to work, with child care so expensive…[she’s] not… able to contribute like she wants to because she’s not receiving between $400 and $900 a month, or whatever she’s entitled to to help raise her children. Because you ask a mom to choose between something and her children, it will always be her children. Even if it’s a sacrifice of food, even if it’s a sacrifice of [her] needs…



Bernard said she thinks it’s important that she’s a woman but also that she’s First Nations:

I believe in gender parity, but as a First Nations person…if you’re saying council’s a reflection of community, I don’t see my community. I don’t see myself, as a First Nations person.

And she hopes to dispel some of the myths about First nations:

‘[Y]ou’re not a taxpayer, you’re a tax burden, you’re a federal issue.’ Well, no, I own a house in Ashby, I pay taxes just like you. I go to work and I pay taxes just like you. My children go to school, they contribute. And I expect my children to be the same kind of citizens here too. ‘I need you to go to work. I need you to do well in school.’ Don’t wait for the entitlements of you being First Nations—earn your way. Because if you feel that you’re entitled to anything, then your sense of community and your sense of worth can be compromised very easily.

That said, Bernard does believe we need women (plural) on council.

I looked up to [former councilor] Claire [Detheridge] as being the example us women after her can follow. She…fought for things, she was so vocal, even as one woman with all other men on there, she still was never compromised. So, I do think it’s very important for gender parity—even if you had two or three [women]. One is not enough, you need to have a partner in the system, to be able to bounce ideas off each other, to be a support system for any issues that come up.”

Bernard said it’s not that men can’t understand a woman’s point of view, but it’s good to have “someone…able to understand where you’re coming from as a woman.”


District 6

Roberta Lynch

Roberta Lynch has at least one skill that could come in handy as a municipal councilor. The District 6 native, who graduated from St FX and just “kept going,” ended up working in Australia, at a government agency that dealt with complaints.

Roberta Lynch, District 6

Roberta Lynch, District 6

People who’d suffered because of government errors would come to her department (sometimes having told their story multiple times in multiple other departments) looking for justice. Her job, first of all, was to listen:

Of course, it involved talking to some very excited people. I ended up in the job because the person who had it before me couldn’t deal with being yelled at all day [laughs].

Lynch attributes her success in the job to her Cape Breton-ness:

I would actually listen, and I’d say, ‘They did what? And I’d say, ‘I don’t know why you’re taking this so well. I wouldn’t be as calm as you are if it happened to me.’ And as soon as you said that, then they realized maybe this time, this department…And so you’d say, ‘Okay, if you’d be kind enough to tell your story one more time.’ And then you’d look up the file, and fight the case.


Finding Answers

Lynch, who returned to the CBRM 12 years ago, and who teaches part time for St. John Ambulance, said she decided to run for council this fall because she was “fed up with the attitude.”

Every place has problems and difficulties and an aging population and communities that care are gathering their citizens together to problem solve. But the disinterest I’ve encountered from some councilors is stunning…

And it’s not that she has ready-made solutions to the CBRM’s problems:

[Y]ou don’t run because you think you have all the answers, you run because you have an interest in finding out the answers. I am interested enough to work with the people who want to do something. Anyway, as a councilor, that I can smooth the path for them—and there are probably lots of ways that you can use your office to benefit the people in general.


Let’s throw a party

One issue that particularly bothers Lynch is that of the second cruise ship berth:

The present mayor is all about getting another pier and I say, that’s all very well, but if you’re inviting company, what are they going to do when they get here? There’s nothing for them to do on a Sunday, they’re wandering around—last Sunday was a fine example, if you were around town. There must have been a thousand of them and nothing for them to do if they didn’t book a trip.

[M]aybe we should be thinking about shutting off two blocks of Charlotte Street on a Sunday afternoon. And…we may not be able to afford professional musicians, but I’m sure there’d be people who would come, if it were organized, for the exposure, because you don’t know who’s on these ships.

Let’s throw a party every Sunday…Because you’re giving [tourists] an appetizer. Why would they ever come back if you don’t give them an appetizer?

Lynch said tourism is a chance to build the community’s brand, to get the word out—because just as you never know who might be on those cruise ships, you also don’t know whom they might talk to when they return home, whose interest they might pique, whose holiday they might influence.  She said she is always amazed when she sees what PEI has accomplished in terms of tourism compared to Cape Breton:

When I lived in Ontario, PEI knew, because they took the time to find out, that [at] many companies in Ontario, you had to book your summer vacation at the beginning of the year. So they’d start advertising at Christmas time—pictures of golf courses and beaches.


Natural resources

Lynch also thinks the CBRM is failing to capitalize on the potential of its own citizens—particularly its senior citizens.

As an example, she cites her gardening club, which went to the municipality some 10 years ago to offer its assistance and advice in designing and planting and caring for the town’s green spaces. But their offer was not taken up.

[T]hese are the citizens…If you ask them, there’s a lot of talented people with expertise, you’d be surprised, and if you say, ‘We all know that we need to do something now, are you willing to offer your expertise?’…People will give back because they have the time and they have the interest.



As for women on council, Lynch said:

I think men and women think differently, we have different priorities, we approach problems differently, and to get a balanced view, we need both sides, men and women. I mean, there are lots of other sides to bring in, like a younger perspective. I’ve dealt with men more than women, and in my personal opinion, I don’t care where the man is from, I don’t care what their cultural background is, they all approach things the same way [laughs]. And it’s the same for women.

To have a boat going forward, it has to be evenly balanced. You need women’s points to be raised.


District 8

Amanda McDougall

Amanda McDougall, who is taking her second shot at unseating incumbent councilor Kevin Saccary in District 8, said this time around, things are different:amanda_mcdougall_b

Last time out there were four of us running, it was a very different experience. I wasn’t taken seriously, at times.

But being dismissed by some as a “young, inexperienced woman” has made her all the more determined “not to be intimidated” and “to be completely open and honest” with voters.

I’m excited to hear what people say. I don’t hold it against people if they do criticize me.

McDougall graduated from Riverview Rural High, received a degree in political science from CBU and lived in Italy for a time before returning, not just to Cape Breton, but to the house next door to her parents in Main-à-Dieu.

At 33, she said she has grown accustomed to being one of, if not the youngest person in most organizations she joins and she’s joined a few, including Lifeline Syria, the Fortress of Louisbourg Association, the C@P Society of Cape Breton and the Main-à-Dieu Community Development Association. As a spokesperson for the latter group, she was very visible in their (ultimately successful) battle to have the MV Miner removed from Scaterie Island.

Since returning to Cape Breton, McDougall has worked in the non-profit sector, including serving as manager of immigration partnerships at CBU.


Job Description

McDougall’s desire to run for council was inspired, at least in part, by what she sees as the shortcomings of the current council. If elected, she said:

I will follow the job description. It is not your primary focus to make sure you attend every pancake breakfast and strawberry festival in the district.

Councilors need to do their research, she said, to be prepared for votes and to be accountable for those votes to the public. As a political spectator she said, she has watched the council hold closed-door meetings, vote on motions without having enough time to read necessary documentation and behave in ways she considers “childish” during council sessions:

There’s something wrong with our process.

And McDougall thinks the disfunction extends beyond the council chamber. In her own district, for example:

Communities are pitted against one another…We can be so much more powerful if we work as a district.

She would like to see the various communities of District 8 work together on an event, like a coastline festival, instead of having five groups holding competing events on the same day.

In the greater CBRM, she said, “we’re not advocating for what’s bringing growth to our community.”

Specifically, she cited the lack of action or follow-up on a presentation to council about the municipality’s creative industry, which she sees as one of the obvious generators of economic growth.



Living in a part of the CBRM unserviced by buses, McDougall is alive to the issue of public transit.

She told the story of a doctor who took over a local practice, but who is located in Sydney. This presents a serious obstacle for patients, particularly seniors, who don’t have their own cars, can’t afford cab fare and don’t have the option of taking a bus.

McDougall thinks transit is a problem we could solve if we thought more “creatively” about how best to allocate existing resources:

How can we use the services we have more effectively? Ridership may be down in urban areas—that doesn’t mean a bus to a rural area wouldn’t bring your ridership up. We need creative thinking about how to use what we already have. That’s not a crazy, unattainable goal.

We have to get back to actually caring about people.


Fueling the fire

Asked about the issue of women on council, McDougall said that when she was contemplating running again, one of the reasons in the “con” column was the sometimes dismissive way she felt she’d been treated the first time out.

It stayed with me and it scared me…but it also kind of fueled the fire to keep going.

Of course, she said, as a councilor, her job will be to “advocate for our community in a fair and transparent way.”

But having the female voice on council is essential…There needs to be a balance of the perspectives of men and women. There needs to be a diversity, fully, around the the council table of demographics, backgrounds.

And nowhere, she said, is she hearing that more clearly than from the women in her community. Running for office was never a possibility for many of the older ones, and McDougall said she’s been touched by how many have made a point of telling her they support her and would like to see her get the opportunity to serve in a way they never could.