Meet the Candidates: Northside-Westmount

Northside-Westmount — formerly Cape Breton North — has mostly gone back and forth between the Liberals and Tories with the exception of the 1978 general election when Len Arsenault briefly turned it NDP orange.

The riding produced a Liberal Premier, Russell MacLellan, before turning into what I think I can safely call a [reaches into bag of election coverage clichés] “PC stronghold” in 2001 with the election of later-CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke. Clarke held the seat until 2011, when he resigned to make an unsuccessful federal run, at which point Eddie Orrell took over, holding the seat for the PCs until 2019 when he…resigned to make an unsuccessful federal run. (Is there a lesson here for the current Tory incumbent?)

Murray Ryan carried the seat for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2019 by-election, albeit by a much-reduced margin than Orrell’s: Murray won with 28.96% of the vote compared to Orrell’s 63.46% in the 2017 general election. Mind you, he also faced a much bigger field than did Orrell, Ryan was pitted against Liberal, NDP, Green and Atlantica candidates plus not one but two Independents.

Voter turnout in the district reached 48.85% in 2019.

Three candidates, including the incumbent, are vying for the seat this time out and the Spectator has heard from all of them.

Electoral Map: Northside-Westmount



Jennifer MorrisonJennifer Morrison (NDP)

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

Growing up, my grandfather was an MLA, and my parents were always involved in elections, which meant I did a lot of volunteering as well. As I grew older and learned more about political platforms, I began to question my own political views. Working in education for over 20 years, I have learned a lot about myself and who I align myself with politically. My views have matured, as I learned more about the NDP and what they have to offer. I always had the sense that one day I would run in an election, and the NDP are the only party which I feel aligned with economically, socially and politically. At this moment in my life, I feel confident and ready to take on the challenge of being your MLA.

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

I believe I have many experiences that have helped prepare me for the privilege of being your MLA. Growing up in a working-class family, we spent much of our time volunteering for the local fire department, community center and sports teams. Community was and still is, a huge part of our lives. Over the last 20+ years in education, I worked with a lot of families and educational staff to help children in need. In my capacity as a guidance counsellor, I worked with many outside agencies to assist families. Working with families, especially those in crisis, has taught me how to communicate, empathize and work with compassion and understanding. Everybody deserves to have someone who is there for them, and I believe I can be that person for Northside-Westmount.

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

All of the NDP promises will make a positive impact on each and every Cape Bretoner. However, if I have to choose just one, equalization would be it. Cape Breton is owed millions of dollars in equalization payments, and yet must go into debt year after year. This makes no sense.  We are a Have Not municipality, yet receive less money in transfer payments than the HRM (a Have municipality). The NDP promises $50 million a year for three years, while working on improving the system used to deliver transfer payments. This will create an equitable division of payments to our municipality.

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

I am hearing a lot about the healthcare crisis and child poverty in our riding. Northside residents must drive to the CBRH for urgent care. Residents are worried about their elderly parents receiving proper care in long-term-care homes and parents are concerned about the physical and mental health of their children. The lack of healthcare professionals in all areas is very concerning. It also puts immense pressure on our healthcare staff. This is something that is not acceptable.

This all connects to the other major issue, which is child poverty. We are dealing with high rates of poverty across Cape Breton, and specifically in our riding of Northside-Westmount. Parents are struggling to pay rent, buy healthy groceries and still have enough money for medications, school supplies and other necessities. This seriously impacts a child’s ability to be successful in school. Healthcare and child poverty are so interconnected that we cannot address one without the other. Fixing the problems in our healthcare system will go a long way towards eliminating the poverty rates in Cape Breton.



Murray RyanRyan Murray (Progressive Conservative)*

Why did you decide to run for the Progressive Conservatives?

Two years ago I decided to offer my name up for consideration in the 2019 by-election.  My reasons were personal yet simple — healthcare! As the primary caregiver for my elderly parents for the past seven years, I’ve seen and experienced firsthand the very best of our healthcare system in action (paramedics, ER doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals) and the worst of our system with long ambulance offload times, waiting in hallways, and extended wait times in examination rooms.

But what really hit me was during these 8-16 hours in ER, when you went out to get a coffee, water or bag of chips, and you would see people in the waiting room, 2 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours later or just leaving in frustration.  Our health professionals deliver excellent care that is second to none, but the system is overloaded as a result of the chronic lack of family doctors, shortage of long-term-care beds and shortage of healthcare workers all of which has converged in our ERs.

What is one thing you have learned as an MLA that will help you should you win a second term?

That’s easy, having the experience of these past two years of working with constituents, building relationships with people, organizations and businesses in the community, as well as the many government departments at all levels — municipal, provincial and federal. All these connections and experience have and will continue to serve me if given the honor to represent the people of Northside-Westmount.

Also having participated in three sessions of the Nova Scotia Legislature and Veterans Affairs Committee Meetings has taught me how to get things done, even in opposition.

I will work with anyone who wants to better our communities. We’re in the business of solutions and I look forward to bringing and implementing solutions.

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

Our commitment to improving the healthcare system.  From recruiting and retaining family doctors, the hiring of additional nurses, LPNs [Licensed Practical Nurses] and CCAs [Clinical Care Assistants]. Creating universal mental health access for Nova Scotians, a plan which will open up additional mental health care resources by enabling private practitioners to bill MSI for those patients in need, but without the means to pay for private care. There are currently 1,292 people on the waitlist for a room in long-term care. A PC government would build 2,500 new, single rooms, and increase the standard level of care to 4.1 hours per resident. The party has committed to hiring 2,000 new staff to support those changes.

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

By far the most frequent issue on people’s minds is healthcare, the lack of access to family doctors, ER Wait times and the continued closure of the Emergency Room at Northside General.  The lack of timely access to mental health and addictions care has also been an area of concern for many in Northside-Westmount. Many have related stories of friends and family members that have [struggled] and are struggling to receive the care they so desperately need in a timely fashion.



Fred TilleyFred Tilley (Liberal)

Why did you decide to run for the Liberal Party?

I decided to run for the Liberal party firstly because my personal values align most closely with Liberal policy. I have always had a passion for helping people which is why I have spent the last 20 years in post-secondary education. I have worked in my community for the past 20 years as an elected school board member and community volunteer in many organizations from the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life to the Canadian Little League Championship committee in Sydney Mines. I currently sit on the Cape Breton Partnership Board and am chair of the CBRM REN. I have a proven track record of working with all levels of government and community organizations to bring investment to Cape Breton. I played a significant role in bringing the new Marconi Campus to life, worked with Health Canada to bring 44 federal government jobs to Cape Breton as well as many other initiatives. I want to bring my passion for the community and my leadership and team-building skills to the government table and be a strong voice for Northside Westmount and for Cape Breton.

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

In my previous career I was trained as a professional accountant and spent many years in the financial area for businesses in the retail sector, construction sector and fish-harvesting and processing sector. I also hold a Masters in Education and have been the senior leader at NSCC Marconi Campus for the past eight years. My background in leadership, team building and commitment to delivering results will serve me well as I bring our voice to the Nova Scotia Legislature.

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

I believe the Liberal Party commitment to improving healthcare will have a significant benefit to Cape Bretoners. Starting off with the development of the new healthcare facilities across CBRM. This will provide much-needed construction jobs and will allow Cape Bretoners to return home to work. The spinoffs in our local economy from this construction will be felt for many years to come. The facilities will also be a draw to attract new physicians and health professionals to our community. In addition, the addition of seats at Dalhousie medical school will also benefit the residents of Cape Breton. The new Office of Physician Recruitment and Retention will have a direct impact on the ability to attract and retain physicians and other healthcare professionals.

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

Of course I am hearing about healthcare and specifically doctor recruitment. I am hearing about difficulties seniors and youth are having. I am also hearing that access to the MLA has been difficult. Some commitments that I have made locally to help with these issues is to help the community develop a grassroots committee similar to Bay it Forward in Glace Bay to assist in the recruitment and retention of doctors. I have committed to starting a Seniors Council and a Youth Council for Northside Westmount so that I will be able to hear firsthand as MLA the issues and concerns that seniors and youth have and be able to advocate on their behalf at the government table. Finally, I have committed to utilizing a mobile office system where the MLA comes to the community. This will make it easier for constituents to have direct access to their MLA in their home community.