Glace Bay and Yarmouth (Nova Scotia) by-elections 2010
By-elections for two seats in the Nova Scotia Legislature were held on June 22, 2010 after the sitting MLAs in Glace Bay and Yarmouth resigned in the wake of the Novs Scotian parliamentary expense scandals. The last general election was held on June 9, 2009 and government is formed by Darrell Dexter of the NDP. Though the next election is only due no later than June 9, 2014, Dexter’s NDP government has come out of its honeymoon with voters rather suddenly with the expenses scandal, which has affected MLAs from all parties. The latest poll had the NDP only 2% ahead of the Liberals, 37-35, while the PCs were in third with 24% support.
Glace Bay Liberal MLA Dave Wilson resigned suddenly, likely due to his implication in the expenses scandal. Glace Bay is the traditional heart of the Cape Breton coal mining region and has long been a working-class seat, and was most recently held by the NDP between 1998 and 1999. Dave Wilson, a former TV and radio host, won the seat -then known as Cape Breton East (he lobbied for a name change) in the 1999 election – and has held it in 2003, 2006 and most recently in 2009. The NDP should have been able to win the seat in more clement conditions, and they polled 39.9% in 2009 against 47.4% for Wilson. The PCs have never been a factor in this working-class stronghold.
Geoff MacLellan (Liberal) 53.91% (+6.47%)
Myrtle Campbell (NDP) 31.52% (-8.34%)
Michelle Wheelhouse (PC) 10.48% (-1.2%)
Edna Lee (Ind) 2.69% (+2.69%)
Dan Wilson (Atlantica) 0.77% (+0.77%)
The result is surprisingly good for the Liberals and rather poor for the NDP, who could have fancied a gain back during Dexter’s 2009 honeymoon period.
Yarmouth PC MLA and former cabinet minister Richard Hurlburt was the first victim of the expenses scandal, being the top-spender in the current legislature (and second place when including defeated MLAs elected in 2006). He had claimed $33,220.18 in expenses, and that he had spent his constituency allowance on a generator and a 42″ television, which together cost over $11,000. Yarmouth is a rural town located at the southern end of Nova Scotia. Fishing and agriculture is the main economic activity, though tourism and light manufacturing has developed in recent years. The seat is a traditional Tory stronghold, having been held since 1999 by Hurlburt. Though the NDP won it in a shocking victory in 1998, the seat had previously switched between Tories and Liberals.
Zach Churchill (Liberal) 50.65% (+36.58%)
Charles Crosby (PC) 33.41% (-27.93%)
Belle Hatfield (Ind) 8.56% (+8.56%)
John Deveau (NDP) 6.52% (-16.41%)
John Percy (Green) 0.62% (-1.04%)
Jonathan Dean (Atlantica) 0.24% (+0.24%)
The PCs were likely hurt by the bad press surrounding their resigning MLA, Richard Hurlburt and local discontent at such corruption in a rather small, rural, traditional and isolated community. However, it isn’t surprising that the Liberals are benefiting the most overall from the dip in Dexter’s popularity as a result of the expense scandals, given that the PCs remain without a permanent leader since their electoral defeat a bit more than a year ago and that they aren’t the official opposition.