Meet the Candidates: Sydney-Membertou

In 2012, the provincial electoral boundaries commission took 79% of Cape Breton Nova and 59% of Cape Breton South and created Sydney-Whitney Pier. The 2019 commission lopped off the Pier and added some Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg territory and — voila! — Sydney-Membertou was born.

I’m going to do some electoral genealogy here because I find it interesting.

Cape Breton Nova existed from 1956 to 2013 and was held by New Democrat, Independent, Cape Breton Labour and Liberal MLAs between 1970 and 2003, all of whom were Paul MacEwan. It was held by a Progressive Conservative (Percy Gaum) from 1956 to 1963. Just before the 2019 redistricting, it was held for two terms by the NDP’s Gordie Gosse.

Cape Breton South existed from 1933 until 2013, during which time it elected Liberals, PCs and a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Foundation (CCF, the precursor to Nova Scotia’s NDP), but mostly — as in, from 1974 to 2013 — it was Liberal, under Vince MacLean then Manning MacDonald.

Sydney-Whitney Pier, created, as noted, in 2012, was won by Gosse in 2013. When he resigned, due to illness, in 2015, Derek Mombourquette won the ensuing by-election for the Liberals. Mombourquette was re-elected during the 2017 general election.

Mombourquette’s closest rival in both those races was the NDP’s Madonna Doucette, who lost in 2017 by just 160 votes. Mombourquette and Doucette are both running again this year, in the newly named Sydney-Membertou, as is the PC’s Pauline Singer.

To date, the Spectator has heard from Doucette and Singer but we’ve been promised answers from Mombourquette and will update the article once we’ve received them.


Electoral Map: Sydney-Membertou


Madonna DoucetteMadonna Doucette (NDP)

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

The values of the NDP more closely align with my own personal philosophies than any of the other political parties. Poverty reduction, improved healthcare, green jobs to grow the economy, better access to post-secondary education and a pledge to prioritize reconciliation with Indigenous people; these are the NDP’s priorities and also my own so it feels good to run under the orange banner.

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

An MLA’s primary function is to serve their constituents, to help them when they are facing personal challenges. I have 11 years of front-line experience in the non-profit sector, where I serve my community and advocate for vulnerable populations. I have raised three wonderful sons on my own as a single mother while working full-time and struggling through poverty. I understand that sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is to ask for help. It would be the greatest privilege to have my constituents put their trust in me to help them when they are in need and to help move Sydney-Membertou into the future.

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

Cape Breton has been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to our portion of the federal transfers the province gets.  I’m proud that Gary Burrill and the NSNDP have committed to a stimulus plan for the CBRM, $150 million over three years while we negotiate a more equitable share of the federal transfers.  I also believe that our commitment to build 400 new Long-Term-Care beds in Cape Breton will profoundly affect all our seniors who are currently housed in hospital beds and/or in crowded ward rooms.

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

Constituents are sharing stories of personal struggles they’ve experienced and how the current MLA failed to respond to their calls. I’m hearing stories of extreme poverty, resulting in a deepening housing crisis where folks feel like they are running out of options to stay in Cape Breton.  Healthcare, mental healthcare, child poverty and elder poverty. We are in a crisis situation and folks are looking for a stronger voice to represent our concerns in the legislature.


Pauline SingerPauline Singer (Progressive Conservative)

Why did you decide to run for the Progressive Conservatives?

I met Tim Houston a few years ago while he was campaigning for the PC Party leadership. He came into the Cape Breton Farmers Market to speak to people. Now, we always get politicians who do this and then we never see them again.

So I thought, ok, I want to make sure he worked for those votes. I introduced myself and took him to meet two young female farmers who were trying so hard to make a go of starting businesses up here and the difficulties they were facing. Tim not only listened to them, he asked questions to better understand, and what made me realize he was different was when his staff came to pull him away so they could keep on schedule, he told them that he wasn’t finished speaking to our vendors.

I was impressed to say the least. He kept in touch over the years, even reaching out during COVID to see how we were managing.

I was never really a partisan person. I put great faith in the person who is running and a party is only as good as its leader. They have put together a solid platform and a slate of candidates who have firsthand knowledge dealing with many of the issues that we need to fix. It is going to take hard work and determination. We are realizing that career politicians are not working, they want someone who has real life experiences and skills. They want representatives that have common sense solutions.

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

Editor’s Note: Due to an unfortunate cutting and pasting error, the Spectator sent Singer the wrong question, asking her what she’d learned as an MLA. She graciously responded:

This is my first time running for office and along the way I’ve talked with folks across our constituency about the problems and opportunities facing our communities. As your MLA, I am committed to continuing to listen and to bringing your voice to government.

Here’s an applicable excerpt from Singer’s bio on the PC website:

Pauline is manager of the Cape Breton Farmers Market, and was instrumental in the relocation and construction of the market’s new location in downtown Sydney. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the entrepreneurs at the market.

She worked in the insurance industry for a decade and served in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves (Army Communications) for six years.

Pauline served on the Nova Scotia Insurance Women’s Association executive, is a founding member of the Spanish Bay Women’s Institute and is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia.

In addition, she ran the Greenhouse/Garden program for residents at Breton Ability Centre. She worked for the Cape Breton Victoria Regional Centre for Education, providing hands-on programming for school gardens.

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

Investments in healthcare and mental healthcare. We cannot continue to have our residents waiting months for care, whether it be for mental health, dialogistic testing or surgeries. Investing more capital and opening MSI to cover approved mental health [providers] we can reduce wait times and save lives. Our Dignity for Seniors plan will not only give our seniors the care they deserve, but it will also help to alleviate the pressure on our healthcare system.

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

It is disappointing to hear from many people, especially our senior population that they feel neglected. Many are saying that they don’t want to vote because of the many broken promises by the current Liberal government. I am hearing every day about our healthcare crisis. In fact, I spoke to a newly retired healthcare worker and she worried for her patients. This woman gave 40 years and she said, “We need to put humanity back in healthcare.” People want a government that is in touch with the real issues and someone who is willing to work with them and be their voice not just pay lip service. My promise is “I’m With You.”


Still to come…


Derek MombourquetteDerek Mombourquette (Liberal)*