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Preston byelection candidates make their pitch to represent the district | CBC News

The Nova Scotia Liberal Party has represented Preston for 20 years, but Carlo Simmons isn’t taking that for granted as he goes door to door asking for people’s support in next month’s byelection.

The way Simmons sees it, he has to prove that it makes sense to keep voting Liberal when voters already know there will continue to be a Tory government after the voting is done.

“I like the challenge,” he said during a break from campaigning.

“We’re kind of like the underdogs, I guess, because we’re not ‘the guys’ — we don’t have the trophy. So we’re the guys that are going after it and I just want to let people know how hard I’m going to work for it.”

A man in glasses and a ballcap stands outside.
Carlo Simmons is running for the Nova Scotia Liberal Party in the Preston byelection. (CBC)

The next MLA for Preston needs to be able to advance issues like the need for more affordable housing and better access to health care, said Simmons, who owns and operates a paving company. He said he’s ready to be a voice for the district.

Simmons is one of five candidates in the byelection vying to replace former Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds. Simmonds, who stepped down in April about 19 months into her first term in office, has since taken a job with a Halifax-based law firm.

In 2021, she took 43.4 per cent of the vote. The Tories received 28.7 per cent of the vote, while the NDP was a close third with 27.9 per cent.

The Tories are hoping to close that gap this time around and pick up a seat they’ve not held since 2003.

A smiling woman poses for a photograph. She is wearing glasses and a necklace, and a navy blazer with a blouse underneath.
Twila Grosse is representing the Progressive Conservatives. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Twila Grosse, an accountant and former airport executive, said health care is top of mind for many of the people she talks to. People can see the steps the Tory government is taking to try to fix the system, and Grosse said she thinks people understand the process will take time.

“This is not going to be a quick fix, a quick solution,” she said in between knocking on doors.

“We’re making incremental changes, but over the long term I think that we will see … our health care improve; things like wait times, number of doctors — I think we’re going to see all of those things improve.”

Just days before Premier Tim Houston called the byelection, he confirmed plans that had been in the works for more than a year to build a new long-term care home in the district. It will have an emphasis on culturally responsive health care in the heart of what is the province’s largest historic Black community.

Voters seem receptive to having their next MLA be a member of the governing party, and a potential cabinet minister, Grosse said.

“They recognize that you are going to be at the table, you will be a voice, you will be able to take our concerns, our issues, directly to the premier. That means a lot and that’s how things will get done.”

Colter Simmonds has a different view.

A man with crossed arms stands in front of a hedge.
NDP candidate Colter Simmonds is taking his second shot at the seat after running in 2021. (Submitted by Nova Scotia NDP)

Simmonds, who is taking a second shot at the seat for the NDP after running in 2021, said voters shouldn’t think they need to elect a member of the governing party to get their needs addressed.

“The MLA’s job is to advocate for the community and issues and concerns of the community and it’s the government’s job to respond to it,” he said.

“If the MLA is not of the party in power and they have valid points, that needs to be addressed … and if [the government] doesn’t respond to it, they’re not doing their job.”

Simmonds believes his experience as a community organizer positions him to advocate at the legislature on issues like the cost of living, health care and community safety for children.

“I’ve been called to serve and I’m ready to do that for the community.”

Charles (Bobby) Taylor decided the best way to advocate for his community is to do it outside the structure of the province’s three traditional political parties.

A bald man holds an election sign.
Charles (Bobby) Taylor is running for Nova Scotians United. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Taylor, who works in the trades, is the first candidate to run for the recently registered Nova Scotians United.

He said that when the party approached him about running, he liked that it seemed focused on empowering people. The party advocates for reducing taxes, allowing private health care and more choice in education, and it’s been vocal about COVID-19 protocols.

The three main parties have not done enough through the years to help the community, said Taylor. He points to a lack of development in the area, challenges with affordable housing and food security, and issues related to historical titles to land that have only recently started to be resolved.

Not being tied to the traditional party structure would be an asset if he is elected, said Taylor.

“None of these other people that are running can stand for the people, they have to stand behind their party,” he said.

“So if the party doesn’t agree with what the people say, they have to toe the line. I don’t have that problem.”

Green Party of Nova Scotia Leader Anthony Edmonds entered the race after it had already begun.

A man with a beard wears a ballcap.
Green Party Leader Anthony Edmonds hopes that by running in the byelection he’ll help build the party’s profile for the next provincial election. (CBC)

He doesn’t live in the district, but said he decided to enter to lay the groundwork for the next provincial election in 2025.

“My main mission here is to really build a solid presence to hand that off to a local candidate to run in the next election so that they’re not starting from zero,” he said.

The people he’s meeting are receptive to the party’s messages about sustainability, thinking about future generations and finding new ways to tackle health care and housing, said Edmonds, who works as an engineer.

But he also knows his biggest job in this and future elections will be finding a way to overcome the fact that no Green candidate has ever received serious support in a Nova Scotia election.

“If you’ve always voted one way, it’s a big deal to take that leap and try something new. But that’s what we’re asking people to do.”

Advance polls are open now. Election Day is Aug. 8.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Five fists raised, different shades of brown skin, next to text that says Being Black in Canada surrounded by an orange and red border.
(CBC)

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