Election 2020: District 7

District 7 encompasses too many communities to name, but let’s just say Big Pond, Ben Eoin, East Bay and all the Grand Miras — Upper, North and South — fall within its boundaries.

It looks like one of the seven dwarves’ caps.

District 7 is another of those CBRM districts with an incumbent of longstanding — Ivan Doncaster was a member of what I am calling “The Class of ’95” in a desperate attempt to have it catch on, that is, a member of the very first post-amalgamation CBRM council. He has served multiple but not continuous terms and is offering again this fall.

In 2016, Doncaster defeated two opponents (one of whom, Joe Ward, is running again, but in a different district) taking 1,767 of the 3,242 votes cast. District 7, although it covers big swath of territory, is the second smallest in terms of registered electors with 5,805 (only District 8 has fewer).

This time out, Doncaster faces three challengers.


Ivan Doncaster

Ivan Doncaster

Ivan Doncaster

What do you see as your greatest accomplishment as a councilor?

Helping constituents on a day-to-day basis is a big part of the job, but it’s through some of the committees that I work with where we can achieve some significant accomplishments.

Recent work I’ve been part of on the Nova Scotia Building Advisory Committee would be something I count among my greatest accomplishments in recent years. The demographics are changing in communities, with increased numbers of seniors and other residents needing accessible housing. Nova Scotia has an aging population, and disabilities affect 19% of the population. As an active member and CBRM representative on the Nova Scotia Building Advisory Committee, I helped to move forward and have passed the new Adaptable Housing Building Code. This change in the code is making homes/buildings more accessible from the start. It is adding features that make it easier and less costly, at an often more challenging time in life, to adapt to the specific needs of residents. Being part of the committee that made this important change possible is an achievement I see as one of my greatest accomplishments as council representative in CBRM.

What do you hope to accomplish in an additional term?

The following are some of the key things I hope to accomplish in the upcoming term:

(a) I hope to work with council to find a permanent site for a new library. With the Marconi Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College moving to the waterfront, it gives even more impetus for promoting a modern new accessible library.

(b) I will continue to work with communities and the various agencies to see the Rural Broadband internet and cell service improved substantially in District 7 and beyond. This ongoing development has far-reaching influence in fostering improved educational opportunities and business growth, thereby increasing economic development in rural areas and the whole of CBRM.

(c) I hope to see the completed development of a Charter for CBRM and will work to encourage our provincial government member to meet with council to update us on the progress of the mandate for the development of our Charter.

(d) I hope to have success in impressing upon Council the importance of continuing to maintain the CAP and to look at adjusting the tax rate to reflect services received in various areas of CBRM.

(e) During this term I also hope to see the Novaport[e] container terminal development move forward.

Do you think large, “silver-bullet” projects like the container terminal are the answer for local economic development, or are there other approaches?

Many business leaders and citizens I have spoken with believe the timing is right to upgrade the rail lines that will allow Novaport[e] to become a stabilizing economic industry for CBRM. This will take a lot of lobbying and work on all levels of government. Supporting the large developments like Novaport[e], along with economic diversification through tourism, education, the second berth, forestry and local business development such as Protocase, the Island Cabinet Shop, CME Shipyard will all help our local economic development. Also, as the local population becomes more diverse, it’s important to embrace and support the restaurants and other businesses new people bring to our area.

What is one place in your district you always bring visitors?

The beauty throughout District 7 is world class, so most anywhere we would take visitors is sure to bring delight. However, the one place in District 7 that we almost always took visitors used to be Rita’s Tea Room in Big Pond. The drive there was always a pleasure and the Tea Room a welcoming experience for all. Since the Tea Room closed in Big Pond, we have most often taken visitors on another lovely drive to the interesting Two Rivers Wildlife Park along the Mira River. Then on we go to the beautiful community of Gabarus, which offers stunning seaside scenery, a new restaurant, craft shop, art gallery and the winding Gull Cove Trail, along with very welcoming residents.

What is one question you wish I’d asked you? 

One question I am surprised that you didn’t ask was how CBRM is operating under the added challenge of following pandemic protocols to control COVID-19. Since March, like most businesses, online council meetings have taken precedence in place of in-person meetings at the council chambers. Despite inadequate internet operations in some areas, council and staff have created solutions. Administration has been working hard to keep various programs running as smoothly as possible. Administration meets on a weekly basis, closely monitoring the operations of all departments. Presently the departments are all operating under budget, after six months in our new mandate.


Steve Parsons

Steve ParsonsWhy do you want to be a CBRM councilor?

There are several reasons why I would like to represent the people of District 7 in the upcoming election on 17 October 2020. First and foremost, I believe that I have both the professional skills and governance experience of over 30 years to participate and provide for reasonable solutions to our ongoing fiscal and operational opportunities that are facing our municipality today.

Secondly, I believe that the future of our collective community requires leadership to be able to guide, support and lead our community through this troublesome time. Throughout my working career, I have always maintained a positive attitude, one of which is always representative of both optimism and creativity when it comes to collectively working as a “team.” All districts are represented by an individual councilor, but the time has come for all council along with its mayor to work together on both district concerns and the overall strategies, goals and objectives of the entire CBRM.

What is one issue of concern to you and what is your plan to address it?
The reality of living, working and surviving in this COVID pandemic faces many challenges, all of which have been discussed during this election campaign, whether it’s equalization fairness, commercial and residential tax reform and/or the advancement of a municipal charter and the need for recreational support for district parks, all of which represent symptoms of a common denominator. This common opportunity represents the lack of revenues to maintain current and future services.

The priority, in my opinion, and to be quite frank, is the concern over the “Plan” to affect in a positive way a short- and long-term strategy for CBRM to both maintain and improve this list of opportunities. Our municipal budget today represents approximately $149 million of which 85% is allocated for wages and benefits (collective negotiated agreements) leaving a mere sum to operate and provide for the remaining expenditures.

There is an old adage that I will refer to and that is, unless you have a strong strategic plan to move forward, how does one achieve success? I have always maintained that planning is a proactive measure and not a reactive consequence to a failed agenda. If CBRM is to grow and maintain its present level of services, then council must be believe in the same philosophy and work together collectively for the whole community.

Although it is now 25 years old, the CBRM doesn’t necessarily function as a single entity. Do you have any ideas for bringing our “community of communities” closer together?

For the past 25 years since amalgamation, the biggest challenge that I have witnessed is the lack of “communications” in part as to the overall strategic plan for taking independent communities and helping them grow in a way that benefits everyone. In District 7, for example, we are predominately a rural setting where services are limited and CBRM investment has been minimal.

For CBRM to grow and prosper, knowing that there has been an outmigration of citizens, unemployment rate increasing and reduced revenue streams in taxation, communications to improve and react need to be engaged and understood by its residents. We all understand that every district is different and opportunities vary and need to be supported. Take, for instance, the downtown areas of the larger communities, the priorities for economic stimulus differ from the rural areas and if properly supported through investments, will have positive spinoffs which can affect in a positive way, through employment and/or increased services, those not living in the core. I agree with this strategy, but would also point out that when it comes time to improve a rural areas’ infrastructure (recreation parks, internet improvements, volunteer fire halls and community centers) then a fair reinvestment is a measurable response and should be supported by all council. All councilors are elected by the residents in a specific district but the majority of decisions of council reflect one of a council at large and fair and equitable investments back into all districts needs to just that — “fair!”

Communications works best when the elected representatives not only speak on behalf of their residents but also listen to their opinions, thoughts and ideas. If elected on October 17, I pledge to keep the lines of communication opened with District 7 residents by holding bi-annual meetings throughout all the district to keep people informed and to also use social media to keep the information flowing through the term. If all councilors and mayor take up this challenge, maybe the buy-in to our short-term and long-term strategies becomes a collective strategy that is supported as a whole region.

What is one place in your district you always bring visitors?

With so many scenic and beautiful places encompassed by District 7, to identify only one in particular would be doing it an injustice. The district has so many tourist and local destinations for everyone to enjoy that we are so fortunate. Whether you are an avid boater, golfer, runner and/or walker, the district has many adventures to offer to both its residents and visitors. People live in our rural areas of CBRM for a reason – because they enjoy it immensely and its elected representatives collectively must find a balanced approach in supporting their communities.

What is one question you wish I’d asked you?

What is the single most important attribute of the continued growth of the collective CBRM?

In District 7, like all other districts in our wonderful municipality, we have something that`s not unique to only CBRM, but I would like to point out is something very special when it comes to taking pride in where you come from. I have traveled the world in my work capacity visiting many different cities, small towns and communities, but when it comes to getting things done, taking pride in your community`s assets and/or comforting your neighbor, we collectively have COMMUNITY PRIDE!! I have never witness volunteerism like we provide for in our smaller units of CBRM. Whether it’s the fire services, community church groups or local food drives, we are always there for each other in the good times and the not so good. We always find a way to make a difference and support our communities in times of need. As a candidate for council in 2020, I can only promise to continue to effect this attribute in a positive way and will always protect the integrity of this community spirit for without it, growth will be limited and potential unattained.


Adam Young

Adam Young

Adam Young

Why do you want to be a CBRM councilor?

I believe that there is a need for fresh faces around the council table.

In this election, there will be at least six newly-elected representatives, either due to vacancies or current councilors not re-offering this time around.  It is a perfect opportunity for change—it’s needed, and it’s happening. I want to be one of those fresh faces, to help guide the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the whole Island to a brighter, more prosperous future. I have a long history of being an ambassador for the Island, both to tourists visiting the area and as a travelling musician myself. Now, I’d like to turn that enthusiasm and drive into on-the-ground action, helping to chart a course that will see the CBRM reach the potential we all know is there. I’d like to see us do things a little differently: to not put all our eggs in one proverbial basket, but to diversify our economic development efforts; to develop, commit to, and carry out a sustainable, well thought-out, feasible regional economic plan; to realize that we need to right-size our goals and aspirations in order to maintain those aspects of life on Cape Breton that make us proud to live here, while creating a prosperous economy that will both attract newcomers and help prevent our young talent from seeking greener pastures elsewhere—because those pastures will be here at home. They sound like lofty goals, but enthusiasm and positivity (coupled with a knowledge of our current reality) are needed, as well as the ability to plan and follow through to achieve a successful outcome.

What is one issue of concern to you and what is your plan to address it?

One issue that surprisingly doesn’t come up often in conversation (it seems to be overshadowed by talk of equalization payments and the need for property tax reform) is the need for a youth strategy. Ever since I was born, and even before that, young people have been leaving the Island to seek employment elsewhere.  Many hope to return one day, but many have no such plans. In addition to growing our economy to attract and retain young people, we need to develop programs that will help them develop a pride of place—to realize that Cape Breton has everything they need and is a fantastic place to live, work and play.  Previous (possibly half-hearted) attempts have been made to engage the area’s youth by developing a youth council or seeking input from various community leaders. For whatever reason, these efforts did not last. I would like to see a robust strategy developed to ensure that children growing up have access to opportunities that will help them learn, develop, and grow. They should be involved from the outset—instead of saying “this is our plan,” we should be asking “what would you like to see?” in order to engage them and make them feel as if this is something they can truly buy into. As an additional part of this strategy, we should: encourage healthy lifestyles; put measures in place to help deal with mental health, child poverty, and addictions services; develop funding programs, scholarships, or bursaries to make access to sports and arts programs more affordable and accessible; and maintain or restore our current recreational facilities, many of which have seen far better days.

The other issues being focused on during this campaign—notably equalization payments and the need for property tax reform—are important issues, to be sure. Sorting these issues out should also benefit the area’s youth (more access to equalization monies hopefully means more investment in programs that will also help youth, and property tax must be reformed in a way that will not inhibit prospective new homeowners from building or buying). Our youth are our future, and we need to plan for their success and prosperity, as well. 

Although it is now 25 years old, the CBRM doesn’t necessarily function as a single entity. Do you have any ideas for bringing our “community of communities” closer together?

I have faith that, whoever is elected, this new council will be able to unite in a way that previous councils have not. With a large turnaround in representation, councilors will be forced to work together, and it is my hope that the mayor and council will unite to carry out a solid, sensible mandate. I believe that previous missteps are excellent learning opportunities, and that the new council will operate with greater transparency, integrity and openness. The public’s trust in the municipality has been tested and broken by certain things that have happened within the past few years. We have an opportunity to course correct and to lead by example. I believe that open, frank, honest discussion with citizens, as well as sharing information, will help to mend the damage that has been done. Like any relationship, honesty, trust and communication are key.

What is one place in your district you always bring visitors?

There are a few favorite go-to places within my district—it makes up about 40% of the entire municipality!  From Ben Eoin Provincial Park to the East Bay Hills, Ski Ben Eoin and The Lakes, Two Rivers Wildlife Park, the Mira River…there are no wrong answers. But lately, I’ve been enjoying the new restaurant in Gabarus, Neck of the Woods, and bringing along friends for great coffee and fantastic food. The Mermaid Food Truck wasn’t operating this year due to the pandemic, but their setup at the Gabarus breakwater is always a treat, and the nearby Gull Cove hiking trail is one of my favorite spots on the Island—I walked the 21 km from the trailhead in Gabarus right to Belfry Beach again this summer. It’s a beautiful, arduous, and unforgettable journey!

What is one question you wish I’d asked you? 

There are honestly no questions I wish you’d asked—but I’ll answer as if you’d asked what sets me apart, because I think that’s important.

We are so used to politicians saying they want to be the loud voice, the squeaky wheel, the hero. That’s not the point of politics. Your elected representative—your true representative—should be listening as much as talking, seeking input from constituents, and truly acting on your behalf. That is the entire point of democracy: for elected officials to be the voice of the people. Without engagement, the politician relies on what s/he thinks the public wants, but often doesn’t actively seek input. I want to change that. I want opinions, thoughts, perspectives—especially those that challenge my own. I want to have discussions, to be available to address concerns, and to find solutions, even if they aren’t easy ones. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re left behind, abandoned, or that their opinion or voice doesn’t matter. I have an opportunity to give back to a community that has given me so much, and I want to make sure that opportunity is realized.


Still to come:

Kevin Hardy


A note on this feature:

I decided to send candidates questions by email because, while speaking to each in person would be preferable, I knew I wouldn’t have time to conduct (and transcribe) 55 phone interviews.


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