Rodney’s chops

A stalwart Tory friend who fully expected Ian McNeil to beat Allan MacMaster in the Inverness byelection voiced surprise at MacMaster’s decision to go door-to-door with former Premier Rodney MacDonald, who held the seat before quitting last month:

I would have expected voters in Inverness to have an earful for Rodney after he quit so soon.

There was certainly some of that. MacMaster received 2,247 fewer votes than MacDonald had just four months earlier. But I suspect Rodney was still a plus for MacMaster at the doorstep—probably a crucial factor in his sliver of victory.

In the eyes of most Nova Scotia voters, Rodney never grew into the premiership; he lacked the royal jelly. But voters in Inverness see it differently. They believe their favorite son was done in by a bunch of toffee noses in Halifax, especially in the legislature press gallery, who made little effort to disguise their contempt for Rodney or their conviction that a rube from Inverness has no business running the province.

Party president Ian MacKeigan expressed this view with vehemence on election night in June.  Contrarian happens to know MacKeigan, a popular Whycocomagh pharmacist and an exceptionally fine gentleman. If he feels this way, you can take it to the credit union that many Invernessers do too.

The poll-by-poll results show that former CBC Cape-Breton radio host McNeil also suffered from being less well known in the southern end of the riding, which the CBC chooses to serve with Halifax programming.New Democrat Bert Lewis killed McNeil in the Port Hawkesbury area.

Poll-bypoll results in Antigonish show that the byelection there was tightly contested across the riding, although the final result was not as close

Grace in defeat

No surprise to those who know him that defeated Inverness Liberal Ian McNeil matched victorious Tory Allan MacMaster in post-election graciousness. McNeil wisely made short work of any recount speculation:

I expect that everybody did their job effectively and the result will stand… Fifty is pretty decisive and I’m very comfortable with that margin.

McNeil pledged his support for the new member’s efforts to face the riding’s common problems, described the race as the experience of a lifetime, and said he would “love to do it again.” Sounds like a worthy re-match in three or four years.

Oops! – updated

So much for Contrarian’s election prognostication prowess. Tory Allan MacMaster hung on to the Inverness seat by 50 votes over Liberal Ian McNeil. N-dip Bert Lewis was 800 votes back. I guess a 3,431-vote margin four months ago counts for something after all. Full results here.

[Update:]  A certain Danny Graham, a man familiar to Contrarian readers Liberal and otherwise,  writes:

You should have given me a call on the byelection. I predicted the triacta of Mac Master, Mac Neil, and Lewis within a margin of very few votes.

Robo Ian or Principal Bert?

Today’s Antigonish by-election is a foregone conclusion. N-dip Moe Smith came within 275 votes of knocking off popular Tando MacIsaac in June’s general election. Tando having abandoned the seat so abruptly, and the NDP firmly ensconced in Province House, Smith will take the riding in a walk.Allan-MacMaster-c

Inverness is a different matter. The riding is festooned with election signs in roughly equal numbers. Although then-Premier Rodney MacDonald out-polled his nearest rival by 3,431  votes in June, would-be Tory successor Allan MacMaster is widely expected to place third today. The premier’s abandonment of the riding, like Tando’s of neighboring Antigonish, will hurt MacMaster, as will the traditional Liberal stronghold’s penchant for snuggling up to the government side of the House.

ianmcneil-cLiberal Ian McNeil, a former CBC Radio host (and—disclosure—a friend of Contrarian’s),  was widely regarded as the man to beat at the outset of the campaign. While hosting CBC-Cape Breton’s Information Morning program, McNeil endured a grueling three-hour daily commute to maintain his East Lake Ainslie home in the riding. A man with strong rural sensibilities, McNeil created the CBC’s Party Line feature, and he has hosted musical events and community forums in every fire hall and church basement in the county.

Bert_LewisCBC-Cape Breton’s signal does not reach the southern end of the constituency, however. So McNeil is not as well known in riding’s largest population center, the town of Port Hawkesbury, where NDP candidate Bert Lewis is recently retired as principal of the Nova Scotia Community College campus. You have to wonder whether the 11th-hour NSCC strike settlement, details of which are conveniently unavailable, will help Lewis.

A much weaker NDP candidate placed second in June, a first for the party, albeit with only 20.5 percent of the vote. But it’s a government-prone riding, and this time, voters know which party is in government.

If McNeil loses, I suspect it will be because of a misstep. More than the other two candidates, he has blanketed the riding with robo-calls, and these aren’t sitting well with voters I’ve heard from.

Know how they vote

A group calling itself Know How They Vote is asking the Nova Scotia House of Assembly to abandon its traditional practice of unrecorded votes.

A news release from Michael Kennedy, the group’s director, points out that, although any two MLAs can request a roll call vote, only one percent of the legislature’s decisions in the last six years have been by recorded vote. Moneyquote:

The democratic deficit in Nova Scotia is growing. With every unrecorded vote in the Legislature, our MLAs get farther and farther away from our scrutiny. Choosing not to record votes is choosing not to be transparent and accountable to the constituents that you represent.”

In the current Inverness and Antigonish byelections, the group won endorsements of the principle of recorded votes from Liberal Ian McNeil and Verdant Nathalie Arsenault (both running in Inverness), but got thumbs down from Liberal Miles Tompkins (Antigonish) and PC Allan MacMaster (Inverness). No word on where the NDP candidates stand.

[Update:] Miles Tompkins explains:

I have no objection to recorded votes, but I don’t assume that it alone will make the process function better. The first thing that would have to change to allow the individual MLA some autonomy would be confidence votes. At present, many things can be construed as confidence measures. Multiple changes have to be in place to take the edge off such votes. The single act of recording votes would be like having all the cars drive on the right hand side of the road to see if it would work….and moving the trucks and buses over next month….