Meet the Candidates: Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier

Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier was previously just Cape Breton Centre and, you will no doubt be surprised to learn, contained much less of the Sydney neighborhood known as Whitney Pier than it now does.

Cape Breton Centre has been all over the map, politically, having elected New Democrats, Liberals, Tories and — back in the 1940s and ’50s — a representative of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), Michael James MacDonald.

The district was held by the NDP’s Frank Corbett from 1998 until his resignation in 2015, at which point it passed to Liberal David Wilton in a by-election. In the general election of 2017, however, Tammy Martin reclaimed the district for the NDP. Martin stepped down in March of 2020 and the current incumbent, Kendra Coombes, kept the seat for the NDP in the ensuing by-election.

Coombes took 42.91% of the vote in that election, roughly equal to Martin’s 43.77% share in 2017.

Turnout in the district for the 2020 by-election was 51.56% compared to 59.68% for the 2017 general election.

Four candidates are vying for the Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier seat, including the incumbent Coombes, and as of press time, the Spectator had heard from all four of them.


Electoral Map: Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier


Kendra CoombesKendra Coombes (NDP)*

Why did you decide to run for the NDP?

As the CBRM councilor for District 11, I saw that our community was being left behind. One in two families in our community was living in poverty, Cape Breton was being denied its fair share of equalization funding, and now more than 8,000 Cape Bretoners and counting are on the waitlist for a family doctor. All the while, the Liberal government has stood by, ignoring the needs of our community.

Cape Breton is strong. But we need a government that is going to stand up for us.

I became a New Democrat because [the NDP’s] commitment to social and economic justice best reflects both my values and the values of Cape Bretoners. The NDP is committed to maintaining and improving services in our community – including healthcare services – rather than cutting another $209 million from public services as Iain Rankin plans on doing.

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

Representing our community for the past year and a half, I have learned how hard it is to ensure that Cape Breton is given an equal seat at the table in Halifax. While the Liberal government is focused squarely on the concerns of the HRM, Cape Bretoners keep being left behind. The government has stood by while our community struggles with widespread poverty and emergency room closures and family doctor waitlists continue to grow. And Cape Breton is unique in being denied its fair share of equalization funding from the province, receiving only $12 million of the $2 billion the province receives from the federal government every year. Cape Breton deserves better.

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

Every Cape Bretoner deserves access to quality healthcare and other public services here in our community – a family doctor or nurse practitioner, timely mental health services, a room of one’s own in long-term care. But the Liberals have abandoned Cape Breton when it comes to healthcare. They have cut services, stood by while doctors left the island, and failed to address ER overcrowding. Code Critical alerts are called frequently in Cape Breton, meaning ambulances are often not available for people who need them. And the Liberals have centralized decision-making authority in Halifax.

An NDP government will provide timely access to primary care and mental health services and increase funding for physician recruitment and retention. We will build a long-term care room for every person who wants one, alleviating pressure on the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. We are committed to ensuring same-day/next-day mental health appointments are available and creating an in-person mental health crisis response service to respond to mental health emergencies with qualified mental health professionals. And we will work to enable more local decision making, rather than continuing to centralize power in Halifax.

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

Cape Bretoners work hard, but most of my constituents feel like they’re not getting ahead.

They’re struggling with overcrowded ERs and are worried an ambulance won’t arrive fast enough when their loved ones need one. Many are struggling to find good jobs as the Liberals have refused to invest in the island these past eight years. And they’re tired of Halifax refusing to provide the CBRM our fair share of funding.

People are worried that the services our families count on won’t be there when we need them and they feel like Cape Breton is being left behind. So, I’m hearing a lot of frustration and fear, but there’s also hope – hope that under a new government, things can change for the better.



Robbie HusseyRobbie Hussey (Green Party)

Why did you decide to run for the Green Party? 

I decided to run for the Green Party because I’ve been a supporter of them ever since the global climate protests in 2019. There was a large Green presence there at the protest I went to and that was the beginning of my support. Another reason as to why I decided to run for them was to show that there can be and should be a Green presence on Cape Breton Island.

You see the climate crisis as a priority when it comes to politics and state simply that “the fossil fuel industry needs to end.” Can you share your thoughts on how we wean this province off fossil fuels – particularly coal? Do you think hydro – from Quebec or Newfoundland – could play a role in this?

Coal and other fossil fuels are a very finite resource. Many people don’t want us to be weaned off of it because they’re worried about what would happen to our economy but if we don’t have a world to live in there won’t be an economy either. We’re going to end up running out of fossil fuels anyway. If we can start putting more investment in sustainable energy, such as more solar and wind, as well as work with Power Companies and First Nations communities then maybe there won’t be such an adversity to it. Weaning us off of fossil fuels won’t be so difficult once more people want to see it happen. Hydro power from Quebec or Newfoundland could benefit us greatly but I’m not sure if hydro power coming from lakes or rivers should be our first choice just because they can cause problems to the ecosystem.

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

I’m a strong believer that if Guaranteed Liveable Income happened in Nova Scotia a lot of lives in Cape Breton would change. Cape Breton sadly has a really high child poverty rate and it’s heartbreaking to see. They could have enough money coming into their lives that they wouldn’t be struggling so much just to keep a roof over their heads let alone food in their stomachs. Then, if they wanted to they could go get a job or go get more education if they so choose. They could try to seize their future again because they never got the chance to before.

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

I’m not campaigning so realistically I haven’t been hearing anything on the doorsteps. However, many people continue to have concerns when it comes to healthcare within the island. The regional hospital is the only hospital open all hours, it takes quite a while to even get inside, and the staff are overworked. I applaud the staff for their hard work but we shouldn’t be letting them burn out. Now, I’m aware healthcare is becoming a problem province-wide but Cape Breton has been struggling with this for years. Something needs to change.



Bryden MombourquetteBryden Mombourquette (PC)

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

I decided for run for the PC Party because I really wanted to help make a difference. I want to bring back the focus onto our communities. I also want to be a part of the solution when it comes to our healthcare system and access to universal mental health services here on the island. I believe in the platform and solutions that the PC Party have presented to Nova Scotians. I think Tim Houston is the only leader that can bring us forward safely with a clear and costed out plan. I am also proud to be a part of the most diverse group of candidates the PC Party has ever run in an election. That in itself shows how this party is moving forward and are respecting the diversity of our amazing island and beautiful province. 

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

I own a small business in Sydney. I have also worked as an educator and have a strong background in business and marketing. I was able to keep my business open throughout a pandemic. I think working as an educator has taught me patience and the ability to listen and converse with people from all backgrounds. I have also lived and worked overseas. I know the importance of clear communication. I also understand the importance of being consistent and being present. These are all qualities that are necessary in order to be an effective MLA for such a diverse riding.

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

This would have to be the access to Mental Health and improved delivery of the healthcare system we have here on the island. This is something that can no longer be denied. The situation is exactly as our EHS workers describe it “situation critical.” We are now learning that even 911 operators are working in high-risk conditions and their own mental health and safety are at risk. This is unacceptable. The PC Party has a costed plan, that contains detailed solutions, not more promises. Cape Breton has been promised everything under the sun, when all we want and need is a functioning healthcare system that serves all Nova Scotians, especially the people of Cape Breton.

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

There seem to be three recurring conversations on the doorsteps. I knew some of these concerns because owning a café you speak to people everyday before they have their coffee, so you know the conversations are very real. There are so many in this riding in particular who are on waiting lists for doctors and surgeries. They need access to mental health services. They also want to feel informed and consulted. The people of this riding want to have a say in what happens, they want to know their elected official has their back and consults with the community before any major decision is made. This is a common courtesy that our elected officials need to adhere to. We work for the people of our riding and are beholden to Nova Scotians. They deserve to be involved, they’re the ones who vote us in. 



Michelle WilsonMichelle Wilson (Liberal)

Why did you decide to run for the Liberal Party?

I’ve seen and been encouraged by the tangible investments made on Cape Breton Island by the Liberal Party the past number of years. These have provided much needed optimism and have already spurred private investment. I believe this trend will continue as the Liberal government continues to move forward.

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

After running a small business for over eight years, and representing almost 300 businesses as executive director of Sydney Downtown Development Association, I feel I’ve proven I can get the job done. I have developed a strong voice that I feel will provide me with the skills it takes to represent my riding in government.

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

I feel that the comprehensive plan laid out by the Liberal Party for strong economic growth will improve the quality of life for citizens in the riding of Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier, and across Nova Scotia. The introduction of universal child care, before the election, and commitment to investing in the NSCC if re-elected are well-thought out with costs fully accounted for.

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

The most common issue I’m hearing about is healthcare. People are passionate about this and I look forward to working with them to address their concerns. Liberals are committed to improving health care in Cape Breton, and I want to see these investments continue.