A poll commissioned by New Dawn Enterprises Limited indicates that about half of the local population believes Cape Breton would be better off if it was separate from Nova Scotia.
The survey of 500 Cape Breton Regional Municipality residents was carried out over a six-day period in the summer of 2018 and was conducted by Ottawa-based polling and marketing research firm Abacus Data.
Poll results, which were recently leaked to the Cape Breton Post, show that 49 per cent of respondents thought that Cape Breton would be better served as its own province, while 42 per cent believed the island’s future would be best served as a part of Nova Scotia. Nine per cent were unsure. Age-wise, 53 per cent of the under-49 group favoured separation, while 47 per cent of those over 50 years of age felt the same way.
New Dawn’s vice president of development Erika Shea said the survey results were never intended to be made public and that the poll was just one of many tools used by the 43-year-old community development organization to keep in touch with what is important to residents of the CBRM.
“The results from any of the polls that we have done were never released and we didn’t undertake them with the intention of releasing them — we just want to know our community and it’s likely that in the future we’ll do more as the need arises,” said Shea, who added that the 2018 local governance poll was the third in a series of surveys that has also focused on immigration.
“New Dawn has spoken out over the decades about a different way to govern ourselves, one wherein we have more control over important decisions and resources, so this is work that we’ll continue to do and we’re really honoured to be able to support Dan Christmas’ leadership on this issue.”
Her reference to Senator Dan Christmas, who hails from Membertou, is in regard to his call for a serious discussion about Cape Breton autonomy. Christmas made headlines in 2017 for suggesting that the current governance system has not worked for an island that over the past several decades has lost its industrial base and that continues to suffer significant population decline.
Shea acknowledged that New Dawn officials were not expecting such large support for Cape Breton autonomy.
“The results of this poll were surprising to us and we didn’t expect the support for greater control and autonomy to be as high as it was,” she said.
“The results led us to conclude that some of the people that were polled don’t spend as much time as we are privileged to spend looking at the data on our community and thinking about the decisions that are being made at multiple levels of government — yet somewhere in their hearts there is an understanding that the system is broken.”
- 44 per cent think life in Cape Breton is worse than it was 10 years ago
- Health care is top issue for those over 49
- Unemployment is top issue for those under 49
- 74 per cent want Cape Breton to have more control over its own affairs
- 49 per cent think Cape Breton is better off as a separate province
- 42 per cent think Cape Breton is better off within Nova Scotia
The poll, commissioned at a time when CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke was running for the leadership of the Nova Scotia PC Party, also asked respondents for their views on five potential mayoral candidates — former mayor John Morgan, Senator Christmas, two-time mayoral candidate and New Dawn president Rankin MacSween, CBRM councillor Amanda McDougall and Glace Bay Liberal MLA and cabinet minister Geoff MacLellan.
Morgan and MacSween enjoyed the highest name recognition, although it should be noted that a significant percentage of respondents admitted to having never heard of the candidates. McDougall was unknown to 53 per cent of those surveyed, while MacLellan and Christmas were unknown to 44 per cent. A third of those polled had never heard of MacSween, while Morgan was known to 72 per cent of respondents.
McDougall, who ironically is set to raise the issue of public input and process of council decisions at today’s regular council meeting, once again laughed off the suggestion she will run for mayor in the next election.
“I found it flattering that they put my name on it, but it is what it is, and I guess it’s just a part of being in public life,” said the District 8 councillor, who added that she has no issue with the New Dawn survey.
“I do find it encouraging that people are getting engaged and showing interest in the political process, and it’s part of democracy. People are allowed to put feelers out there. It’s all part of democracy and I think we need to encourage this type of stuff.”
Meanwhile, New Dawn officials are expected to be at city hall today for the regular monthly council meeting that will include a public hearing into the community development organization’s request to have amendments made to the CBRM’s North End Sydney secondary municipal planning strategy and to the secondary land-use bylaw.
New Dawn maintains that changes are needed to allow it meet its parking space requirements and to establish and operate an on-site residence at its north end Sydney location. The council meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. at the civic centre. It is open to the public.