New Democrats select candidates for two South Shore ridings

·5 min read

The writ has been dropped. Residents of Nova Scotia will head to the polls August 17 for the 41st provincial election as announced by Premier Iain Rankin July 17.

Rankin will be leading the Liberals in hopes of winning a third consecutive term for his party.

Running in hopes of change are South Shore residents Mary Dahr and Amy Reitsma, who were recently chosen to fly the orange flag of the NDP.

Dahr will be running in the Queens riding, while Reitsma will be vying for a seat in the Chester-St. Margaret’s Bay riding.

Dahr is not new to the political arena. She ran in the Grande Prairie-Smoky riding in the 2012 Alberta election. She also ran in the 2015 party in the that province’s Grande Prairie-Wapiti riding.

She said she garnered 700 votes on her first try, but earned 5,000 the second time and almost surpassed the sitting minister of transportation.

The 66-year-old retired medical laboratory technologist was born and raised in Liverpool. She moved to Alberta in 1989 and worked in that province until returning to Nova Scotia in 2015 and settling in Port Mouton. She currently works at a beach resort in Queens.

According to Dahr, her motivation for running this time is two-fold – child poverty and housing.

“Child poverty is at 29 per cent in Queens and even worse in other parts of the province. It’s been over 30 years that Canada pledged to end child poverty, and since that time we have had a couple of generations grow up in poverty,” she said.

“The other issue is housing. They need to do something for affordable housing. Right now it’s a crisis. The same people suffering from poverty are also out of the housing market.”

She likes the NDP because the party’s platform aligns well with her beliefs.

“I think the NDP will take better care of our province and the people. They won’t allow clear cutting and they are more of a green party than the others,” she said. “They also have plans for free tuition at colleges. Imagine what that would mean for people who could rise up above the poverty level.”

Dahr is actively involved in her community. She is the treasurer at her church, the Summerville Christian Church, the secretary/treasurer of the Spectacle Island Lighthouse Society and president of the Maritime area board for the Christian Church of the Disciples.

Dahr joins incumbent PC MLA Kim Masland and Liberal candidate Susan McLeod in the race to represent the Queens riding.

The NDP’s Vicki Conrad represented Queens County from 2006-2013 and Sterling Belliveau won it in for the party in 2013, when federal boundaries included Shelburne County in the riding. Masland won the riding in 2017. For the next election, the Queens-Shelburne riding is back to two separate ridings.

In the Chester-St. Margaret’s riding, MLA Hugh MacKay decided not to run in the next election which left the door wide open for a newcomer. He ran as a Liberal and won in 2017 and concluded his tenure as an independent.

Reitsma is a newcomer to the political ring.

She and her Australian husband are both actors living in Seabright, just across the road from where she grew up. They are new parents of a son born in October.

The couple met in England while they were attending the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School as she was taking her masters in acting. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University.

She grew up in Seabright and attended school in Tantallon and Halifax, before moving to England for eight years. The couple moved back in August of 2020.

The 39-year-old actor said she was always engaged and interested in politics, “but I never dreamed of being a politician.”

“Coming home really opened my eyes to seeing how people seem to be struggling here in similar ways to when I left,” said Reitsma. “I think having a child also has made me hyper-aware of the action that we need to take when it comes to climate change, and I wasn’t impressed with what I was seeing from the government.”

The pandemic has also highlighted inequalities within the political system, as reflected in the Black Lives Matter movement, the Indigenous rights movement and the climate change movement.

“We are poised to change if people decide to go there. I just thought that if different people don’t go into politics, then things won’t change,” she said. “We’ll go back to the way things were, which saw most people struggling to try and keep their heads above water and a very few profiting off their relationships with the government.”

Along with climate change, affordable child care is at the top of her priority list.

“The Liberals are now finally saying, ‘Oh yeah, child care,' but we’ve been advocating for this forever and it’s only on the eve of an election that the Liberals are turning around and doing something.”

The one other issue is open-pen fish farming. Like the NDP, she is against it. Having grown up in St. Margaret’s Bay she insists the farms are “disgusting” and don’t benefit anyone but the corporations. “That to me is just a no-brainer.”

In the 2017 provincial election, the NDP finished third in voting behind the Liberal and PC Party, with 86,299 votes or 21.5 per cent of the total votes cast.

In that election Queens, PC candidate Kim Masland finished on top with Kim Masland winning election with 3,244 votes. The NDP candidate, John Davis, finished third with 1,581 votes.

In Chester-St. Margaret’s, Hugh MacKay won this riding with 3,112 votes. The NDP’s Denise Peterson-Rafuse finished second with 3,021 votes.

Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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