Meet the Candidates: Cape Breton East

Cape Breton East was formerly known as Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg and before that as Cape Breton West (seriously — West has become East, please don’t ask me how).

The district has gone back and forth between the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives but has been held by the Tories since 2006, when Alfie MacLeod won his first of four terms. MacLeod stepped down in 2019 to make an unsuccessful federal run and Brian Comer held onto the seat for the Tories in the subsequent by-election, although his margin of victory was narrower than MacLeod’s — Comer took 43.73% of the vote in 2019 compared to MacLeod’s 67.73% in 2017. Mind you, Comer faced more competition — he ran against candidates from the Liberal, NDP and Green parties as well as an Independent.

Voter turnout in the district for the 2019 by-election was 48.86% compared to 60.76% in the general election of 2017.

This time out, three candidates are vying for the seat in Cape Breton East and the Spectator has received responses from all three of them.

Cape Breton East



Barbara BeatonBarbara Beaton (NDP)

Why did you decide to run for the New Democratic Party?

I am running for the NDP because I am an NDP supporter and was approached back in October 2020, just after my run in the municipal election, and was asked if I would consider being the candidate for CB East.  More importantly, I believe the NDP care about the average everyday person and I feel my values and beliefs align with the party’s platform.

What is something in your own background/experience you think will serve you well as an MLA and how will it do so?

Being in the healthcare field for the past 18 years, and the last five being self-employed with my mobile blood collection business, I was fortunate to meet many people. I had the opportunity to listen to their struggles and challenges concerning many healthcare issues they’ve encountered. I have also seen first-hand the changes to patient care over the years and see opportunities for improvements in many areas. I feel my healthcare experience, along with my volunteerism, my strong work ethic and desire to help others and make a difference will serve me well as an MLA.

What is one NDP election promise you believe will make a material difference in the lives of Cape Bretoners?

Gary Burrill and the NDP are committed to fighting for equalization fairness in Cape Breton and rural Nova Scotia.  We need strong NDP representation from Cape Breton to increase our chance of being heard in the legislature and advancing this issue further.

What are you hearing on the doorsteps? Is there any one issue that seems to come up repeatedly?

The following topics are what I am hearing from those in my riding: the healthcare crisis, long-term care, affordable housing, equalization fairness, high taxes, failing infrastructure and so much more.  The number one issue, though, is healthcare.


Brian ComerBrian Comer (PC)*

Why did you decide to run for the Progressive Conservative Party?

I got sick and tired of the state of healthcare in Cape Breton, in all aspects, including primary healthcare, long-term care, and mental health and addictions, this party had a leader and caucus members who listen.

What is something you have learned in your first term as an MLA that will help you should you win a second?

To listen to the needs of the constituents. To be highly responsive. To be accessible. Knowing the job of MLA is 24/7.

What is one PC Party election promise you believe will make a material difference in the lives of Cape Bretoners?

The core of our platform is about improving access to primary, long-term, and mental healthcare. This is what matters most right now.

What are you hearing on the doorsteps? Is there any one issue that seems to come up repeatedly?

Healthcare is #1 by a large margin. Other issues frequently mentioned are the state of rural and residential roads, lack of educational resources, childhood poverty, climate change, and lack of affordable housing.



Heather PetersHeather Peters (Liberal)

Why did you decide to run for the Liberal Party?

I have lived in Cape Breton East most of my life and support the policies of the Liberal Party. I have always been passionate about politics and involved in various political campaigns on the fringes. I love Cape Breton East and am extremely community minded. I believe that Cape Breton East has tremendous potential, however, has not had strong provincial representation with the present incumbent. I believe that an MLA should always represent his/her constituents to the best of their abilities, even when sitting in opposition. I will be a strong voice for Cape Breton East and an outspoken advocate. To move forward as a community, we need a representative that will take on challenges such as the outmigration of youth, the need for new infrastructure, roadwork and healthcare.

What is something in your own background/experience you think will serve you well as an MLA and how will it do so?

Our riding in Cape Breton East deserves and needs a strong voice in the Legislature. I am excited to discuss the ideas of those living in my riding and advocate for solutions to deal with outmigration of youth, the need for new infrastructure, economic development, roadwork, and healthcare.

My past professional life includes working as a Licensed Practical Nurse at the hospital and local nursing homes, in the classroom as a student aide, and about 10 years with persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. I worked in construction for the past 25 years in the health and safety field. For the last number of years, I was the sole caregiver to a sick and elderly family friend who passed away in hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I feel fortunate to have been able to make a life in Cape Breton and to continue to live on Mira Road, surrounded by our extended Peters’ family and the friends that we have throughout the riding. It’s from this strong foundation of family support, community roots and a wide range of work and volunteer experience that I feel prepared and look forward to serving, if elected, as the next MLA in Cape Breton East…

What is one Liberal election promise you believe will make a material difference in the lives of Cape Bretoners?

The Nova Scotia Liberal Party, under the leadership of Premier Iain Rankin, has indicated in its platform that the party would spend $4 million per year on eight new mental health walk-in clinics to be situated near regional hospitals. Staffing for the sites would be addressed through a combination of expanded seats at universities and colleges, along with increased recruiting efforts that target nurses and doctors. The opening of a walk-in mental health clinic will greatly impact our community in a positive way.

What are you hearing on the doorsteps? Is there any one issue that seems to come up repeatedly?

What I am hearing on the doorsteps is that people are very happy with the way the Liberal government is handling the pandemic. People are concerned about doctor recruitment and retention, especially so during the COVID-19 crisis. The good news is that our provincial government has 80 doctors at this time that are currently being processed to come and practice in Nova Scotia. A re-elected Liberal government will also invest in a department specifically for the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals. This will include investing in community groups that are dedicated to attracting and retaining health professionals in their areas. If elected, I would like to see such a group functioning in Cape Breton East.

Some other issues that have arisen on the doorsteps are as follows:

  • Our riding is hamstrung by unengaged local representation. We need to promote our riding as an attractive option for doctors to live, work, and play in. This will stir economic growth and increase access to quality healthcare.
  • Upkeep of dirt roads/plowing: The sheer number of rural roads that haven’t been properly maintained, and that don’t have access to adequate snow removal is of utmost concern. Advocacy on this issue in the riding has been lackluster and I will work to improve road conditions and be an advocate to expand plow operations. The drivability, and in turn, the economic potential and ease of access to healthcare of the riding is severely inhibited.
  • Internet and Cell Phone Coverage: Increasing access to quality internet and cell service in Cape Breton East is a top priority for me. The provincial government has committed to providing 7,880 homes/businesses with new access, while providing $11.1 million into the NS Internet Trust investment for rural CBRM. This is a solid foundation, but more needs to be done.
  • Tourism: Our riding is home to fabulous venues, parks, and campgrounds. Cape Breton East should capitalize on these strengths, and work with government to gain funding that will increase tourism and generate revenues for local businesses.