GUYSBOROUGH – The 44th federal election, called by Prime Minister Trudeau less than two years into his mandate, resulted in another minority government, with very few seat changes in the House of Commons. In the riding of Cape Breton-Canso, Liberal incumbent Mike Kelloway was declared winner less than two hours after the polls closed. As of Tuesday morning (Sept. 21), there was a 4,200-vote spread between Kelloway and Conservative challenger Fiona MacLeod.
Cape Breton-Canso has been in Liberal hands since it formed in 2004 – expanding the reach of the former riding Bras d’Or-Cape Breton. From 2004 to 2019, the riding was consistently represented by MP Rodger Cuzner, who retired from politics prior to the 2019 election, which was when Mike Kelloway stepped up to the plate for the Liberals.
In that first campaign, Kelloway made a positive impression and won the seat, beating out his closest competitor, Conservative Alfie MacLeod, by more than 1,500 votes.
The Journal spoke to Kelloway at his campaign office late on election night about his second victory, analysis of Liberal seat losses in Atlantic Canada and whether these past four weeks on the campaign trail were necessary, when they delivered a parliament that looked much the same as the one that sat before the election call in August.
When asked what was different in this election, other than the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelloway said first and foremost was that he was the incumbent and was running on a track record both locally and as part of the Liberal government nationally.
People have the opportunity to ask, Kelloway said, “What has Mike done– what is his work ethic, what is his commitment to getting back to people and working with municipalities, First Nations communities and towns, and not-for-profits, the business sector… I think people had an opportunity to look at my work ethic, my focus on getting outcomes, my focus in terms of my riding, [and] playing a lead role in getting some national policies.”
Kelloway said that the past 23 months allowed him and the Liberal government to showcase what they were capable of – both in terms of the COVID-19 response and in other areas, such as the Community Revitalization Fund and the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program.
“We have a lot of challenges in the riding, but we also have a couple of things in our favour. I think we also have a lot of opportunity, and we have a lot of fight still in us, in terms of trying to do good and to play a role in that; sometimes the sage on the stage, sometimes the guide on the side. It’s a humbling and privileged position to be in … I don’t look at this as a job, I look at it as an act of service … leadership is about acting in the service of others,” said Kelloway.
Speaking to his first-term record, he said, “People got to see that in the last election I talked about the importance of forming a youth council; we’ve done that. People heard me say in the last election that I want to have a mobile office one day a week that would leave the CBRM that would go into Guysborough, go into Dover, go into Canso, go into Heatherton and have a full working day in that community; and we did that when COVID allowed us to. To me, it is about bringing people together and showcasing the art of the possible when we are working together. All of that could be just words but to me it’s about putting those words into action, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Several seats in Nova Scotia turned to the Conservatives in this election, as did others within Atlantic Canada that had voted Liberal in the 2019 election. Kelloway said that he thought the change had a lot to do with local issues in those ridings, adding, “When you look at Atlantic Canada … it’s still a really healthy seat count [for the Liberals].
“I think what we need to do, when the dust settles, I will as Atlantic caucus chair, have a discussion to say what did we do well and what didn’t we do well. And listen to the electorate in those areas and build on that. I believe that it is always important to shine a light on truth and uncomfortable things to get to a better result. And that’s what we’ll do in those ridings to figure out what went right and what went wrong; do more of what went right and less of what went wrong,” said Kelloway of the seats lost to the Conservatives this week.
In the coming months, Kelloway said his top priority in the riding is healthcare.
“I want to make sure that we move forward on a couple of things when it comes to health. Number one, 7,500 new doctors and healthcare professionals across the country, that’s essential. Number two, look at the 50,000 new personal care workers and move toward paying them up to $25 an hour. A lot of this is predicated on the provinces supporting that … I want to see the transfer from the federal transfer monies for mental health increase by $300 million. I think it is essential, important and we need to get there for obvious reasons. And then I want to look at seniors. In our platform, and it’s something that I really focused on and pushed to have in our platform, an increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement for 65 to 74. I want to see that in the budget, and I want to see it pass in the budget.”
In addition to healthcare issues, Kelloway also wants to continue working on affordable housing and economic development.
“I’ve had a career working with groups to make good things happen. It’s not about me it’s about our communities, levels of government, not-for-profits, individual people coming together to take our swing when opportunity comes. We have a lot of challenges; we have child poverty, provincial health crisis; federally, we can help in a major way; and I am really optimistic about working with [Nova Scotia Premier] Tim Houston and his government to look at ways we can do that.”
When The Journal spoke with Kelloway on election night the question of whether the outcome would result in a minority or majority government was still up in the air. Edging towards a minority Liberal government, Kelloway was asked if this election was worth the time, money and effort.
“I think so … It was important to go to Canadians to talk about the COVID recovery and what paths we want to go down and, at the end of the day, people have an opportunity to decide on who they vote for. Whether it is majority or a minority, I think that democracy will prevail tonight one way or the other, and I don’t think it is for nought. I think it is an opportunity for people to have their say on the next 10 to 20 years because the significant investments that we had in the last budget really push out significant infrastructure development, but it also pushes out other policies that we want to get behind … I don’t think any time when you bring policy and platforms to Canadian citizens that it’s for naught. I always believe that it is important to do so,” he said.
Reflecting on his second electoral win in the riding of Cape Breton-Canso, Kelloway said, “It is very humbling. It’s my privilege to serve the people of Cape Breton-Canso and the people of Guysborough County, Antigonish County. I have been there so many times, I’ve met so many people, I’ve worked with so many people and really I look forward to the opportunity to continue that and to make good things happen together.”
With 213 of 214 polls reporting by Tuesday morning, votes in the riding of Cape Breton-Canso were as follows:
- Liberal Mike Kelloway (incumbent) 46 per cent - 17,348 votes
- Conservative Fiona MacLeod 35 per cent - 13,133 votes
- New Democrat Jana Reddick 14 per cent - 5,395 votes
- People’s Party Brad Grandy 4 per cent - 1,589 votes