Election 2020: Mayoral Candidates

Tuesday, September 8, was a rather momentous day — not just the first day back to school after an extended absence for Nova Scotian students but Nomination Day in municipalities across the province! Did you feel the electricity?

Qualified candidates had until 5:00 PM yesterday to file their nomination papers and pay their $200 deposits. Qualified candidates, in case you’re wondering, are Canadian citizens who have lived in the municipality for at least six months prior to Nomination Day “and continue to so reside,” have property tax accounts in good standing, are not otherwise disqualified by the Municipal Elections Act, and are “at least” 18 years of age at the time of nomination, meaning you can hold municipal office in this province before you can legally drink which is probably not a bad sequence of events, really.

The CBRM Civic Centre, where the magic happens.

I consulted the “Candidate’s Guide” to municipal elections to refresh my memory on the nomination process and the authors really assume no previous knowledge. Step 1:

Decide which office (mayor, councillor, school board member) you wish to be nominated for.

Step 12:

Election day…DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

In between lie less obvious steps, like “appoint an official agent or file a declaration that you will be acting as your own official agent” (the person handling the money) and obtain nomination papers and have at least five qualified electors sign them for you.

So the candidates on the list below have presumably met all the qualifying conditions (you can consult the full list in the Candidate’s Guide mentioned above), gathered their five signatures, paid their $200 deposit and are away to the races — unless at some point before 4:00 PM today, September 9, they are gripped by second thoughts or sheer terror or suddenly remember they are Senators and withdraw, forfeiting their deposits.

I’ve taken so long getting ready to publish today (I blame COVID) that the deadline for withdrawing has passed, so the list below is the “Official” list of candidates for CBRM mayor (I’ve tacked the one who actually did drop out on at the bottom).

 

MAYOR

There are six candidates for mayor of the CBRM. The CBRM returning officer has listed them in alphabetical order and who am I to argue with the CBRM returning officer?

Before I discuss them, however, I must note that four of them — Chris Abbass, Archie MacKinnon, Kevin MacEachern and Amanda McDougall — are members of a 3,848-member Facebook group called Cape Breton Autonomy Group (I Support CBI Self-Governance). (A number of candidates for council also belong to this group, but as today’s focus is on the mayoral race, we’ll put a pin in that for now). The “About” section of the Autonomy Group page states:

By joining this Group you acknowledge that you support the Cape Breton Island self-governance [sic] and truly believe that Cape Bretoners deserve better!

I don’t believe a candidate could be held to that in a court of law, but the degree to which any of these candidates intends to re-litigate the 1820 annexation of Cape Breton by Nova Scotia seems like information worth knowing, and will be a question I will ask of them.

I’ve been gathering this preliminary information through internet searches and my plan is to send candidates questions via email, but Rebecca Wall, the force behind Ripple FX TV, an online Cape Breton “broadcasting and media” group, has been conducting in-person interviews with many of them, often driving around with them in closed vehicles without masks, which I have to think is not a great idea in the age of COVID, but which doesn’t seem to bother any of the interviewees. Wall, who returned to Cape Breton after living “out West,” is not a disinterested reporter (nor am I, let’s be honest) but she’s got access and she’s got an audience — although how many of its members are CBRM residents with a vote to cast is an open question — so I will note the candidates she’s interviewed.

And now, without further ado, your candidates for CBRM Mayor:

 

Chris AbbassChris Abbass made a previous run at a mayor’s chair, challenging Sydney Mayor Manning MacDonald in 1990. Abbass says he received 31% of the vote, which I have yet to verify, but a retired reporter of my acquaintance who covered that election tells me Abbass did indeed give MacDonald a scare. A Sydney resident, Abbass was out of the blocks early this year with a platform, itemized on his Facebook page, that begins with equalization (he seems to be part of Albert Maroun’s revolution) and moves on to “wrestling the grip of taxation jurisdiction away from the province” while falling short of calling for Cape Breton autonomy. He wants a Mayor’s Task Force to address child poverty, better use of Open Hearth and Victoria Parks and acceptance of “the aging nature of our community.” He’s going to be interesting to talk to, I think. (He’s not on Twitter.)

 

Does this man really need an introduction? The two-term incumbent who brought the CBRM 200 positive changes and turned Sydney into a transshipment hub for ultra-large container vessels? I think not. Watching his announcement video, though, I have to say I don’t think his heart is really in it this time. (Interestingly, Clarke — or his comms person — felt the need to respond to a commenter who said they’d heard he lived in Halifax, assuring them he actually lives in Sydney Mines.) Clarke has a Facebook page and a Twitter account (@CecilClarke2020) but the¬†website cecilclarke.ca “no longer exists.” Presumably, it will be fired up again in the next few days. I will ask Clarke questions, but he generally ignores me.

 

Kevin MacEachernKevin MacEachern is a Big Pond native who returned from Alberta five years ago and owns the newly opened Mr. Fix It 24/7 Auto Sales and Jovy’s Place Convenience Store on the corner of Dorchester and Dodd Streets in Sydney (Jovy is his wife.) If he has a website or Facebook page dedicated to his campaign or has posted a platform online, I have yet to find it, but he is a member (as noted above) of the Cape Breton Island Autonomy Group (I Support CBI Self-Governance) and gave this interview to Ripple FX TV:

 

Archie MacKinnonArchie MacKinnon is a Sydney Mines native, a Toronto Maple Leafs superfan, a former Sydney Mines councilor and the owner of The Sky’s The Limit Carpentry in Little Bras d’Or. You may remember him from the last federal election when he ran as an Independent in Sydney-Victoria and astonished CBU political science professor Tom Urbaniak by getting 14% of the vote — the third-highest percentage of votes won by any Independent in Canada (behind only Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott). MacKinnon is sympathetic to NSEF and an administer/moderator of the Cape Breton Autonomy Facebook group. He seems to be using his personal Facebook page as his campaign page and has no other internet presence I could find (he’s not on Twitter). He also gave an interview to Ripple FX. It is an hour-and-a-half long, but I watched enough to grasp that the issue of poverty is key for him, and he vows that, if elected mayor, he will donate one-third of his salary to charity each year, just before Christmas. I look forward to communicating with him and I hope he’ll respond — he’s been accused of blocking people on social media although he says he only blocks people who ask him stupid questions.

 

 

Amanda McDougall, who has served as councilor for District 8 for the past four years, is the only woman running for the mayor’s office. Were she to win, she would be the first female mayor in the 25-year history of the CBRM. She would also be the first pregnant mayor in the 25-year history of the CBRM, an issue she’s already felt the need to address publicly. (Here’s what occurred to me reading that: she may miss some time in office, what with giving birth and caring for a newborn, but we’ve regularly allowed ageing councilors to miss time because they are ill and we allowed the mayor to spend eight months running for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party, so we’ve kind of established a precedent.) McDougall’s campaign is happening on an entirely different plane than those of her competitors (even Clarke’s, at this point). She has a web page (designed by a local outfit, Anchored Ideas), so slick it’s kind of frightening, professional photography, representation on all the Twitters (including Twitter itself @ElectMayorMcD), even a slogan — “It’s Time to Reach Our Potential.” None of this is cheap, which suggests the campaign has what my family would call “the boodle.” Her platform calls for poverty reduction, an increased emphasis on social infrastructure like libraries, a “population growth” strategy (focused on immigrants) and a plan to deal with climate change, among (many) other things. Erika Shea, vice president of New Dawn Enterprises, attended McDougall’s campaign launch, and while she told the CBC’s Tom Ayers she was there as a friend, I think it’s reasonable to suspect McDougall may be New Dawn’s candidate of choice (which means something: New Dawn Enterprises president Rankin MacSween almost beat Clarke in the 2016 mayor’s race).

 

Dr John Strasser is a life long learner and a great community supporter! He has many accomplishments under his belt over the years in Cape Breton and as well as across Canada and I sincerely believe he would make a great Mayor for CBRM!

I look forward to asking Dr. Strasser some questions.

 

THIS JUST IN: As noted above, the 4:00 PM cut-off for withdrawing from the race has come and gone and lo! and behold, we lost a mayoral candidate, although I’m not sure we ever really had him to begin with. Here’s the write-up I’d prepared for him:

 

Gordon MacPhersonGordon MacPherson, according to the CBC’s Tom Ayers, is an RCMP officer in Eskasoni. I’m not sure why he hasn’t submitted a photo. (Do RCMP officers not appear on film? Does he not want his superiors to know he’s running for office?) Whatever the explanation, I have to see this as a problem in an election that is going to depend like no municipal election has ever depended on online communication. I searched the internet for the correct Gordon MacPherson but most of those I found were either dead or Scottish, either of which would make them unlikely CBRM mayoral candidates. I can only presume MacPherson will let us know his plans for our municipality in his own sweet time, preferably before Election Day.

 

And finally, here’s the “Official” list of candidates, fresh from the Municipal Clerk’s office. MacPherson was the only scratch. I’m looking forward to bombarding them all with questions, so f you have a question you’d like me to put to our mayoral or council candidates, send it along.

OFFICIAL List of Candidates Sept 9 2020 RO