There is a new MLA for the riding of Argyle-Barrington but the party filling the seat is staying the same.
Colton LeBlanc, the Progressive Conservative candidate, won the seat in a Sept. 3 byelection.
The byelection (one of three happening in Nova Scotia) was called in this riding because Chris d’Entremont – who has been the PC MLA here since 2003 – will be running federally in the West Nova riding for the Conservative party.
Colton LeBlanc led throughout the evening by a large and growing margin over the other candidates as the votes came in.
With 38 of 38 polls reporting, the unofficial byelection night results were as follows:
• Colton LeBlanc/Progressive Conservative: 3,850 votes
• Charlene LeBlanc/Liberal: 1,915
• Robin Smith/NDP: 213
• Adam Randall/Green Party: 202
There were 23 rejected ballots.
There were 12,630 registered electors in the Argyle-Barrington riding. Of them, 6,180, or 49.11 per cent, voted in the byelection.
And of those voters, 62.30 per cent voted for Colton LeBlanc.
The mood at the West Pubnico Golf Course’s clubhouse was a festive one as campaign workers, party supporters and other family and friends celebrated Colton LeBlanc’s victory, along with PC party wins in the other two byelections.
“It’s a very, very surreal and humbling and rewarding experience,” LeBlanc said. “It’s been an incredible journey with this campaign team, having their support. My family and friends were right at my side.”
LeBlanc, a resident of Quinan, Yarmouth County, who is also an advanced care paramedic and known for being a community volunteer, said the byelection result sends a message to the Liberal government – especially on the health care front.
“People are very upset that this government is not acting on this health care crisis, not even acknowledging that we’re in a health care crisis,” he said. “I find it deeply troubling when you hear that there is 52,000 people in this province, nearly 20,000 in the western region, without access to primary care that are obligated to go to an emergency room for non-emergency issues, to burden the system, and wait 10, 14 hours.
“Then you have hospital closures. And they have to fix the ambulance system across this province,” he added. “So people have had their say and I hope to be able to tackle those issues on their behalf.”
Throughout his campaign, LeBlanc drew on his own experiences as a paramedic to illustrate the many challenges facing the healthcare system, the party says. During his campaign he joined PC Party Leader Tim Houston in calling for more local decision making in healthcare, the establishment of a Healthcare Ombudsman and a new, respectful relationship with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
“I look forward to having another healthcare professional at our table as we work to find solutions to the healthcare crisis,” Houston said. “Colton’s experience and work ethic make him a great addition to our team.”
LeBlanc said what he heard most about on the campaign trail was concerns about health care, education, roads and the rural economy.
The riding of Argyle-Barrington came into being in 2012 following an electoral boundaries commission review, despite people calling for the riding to stay as the Acadian minority riding of Argyle that it had previously been. The latest electoral boundaries commission has recommended returning to the Acadian riding of Argyle in the next provincial election.
The last time there has been a Liberal MLA in the Argyle region was when Liberal Allister Surette defeated Neil LeBlanc of the Progressive Conservatives in the 1993 election. Surette was then defeated by Neil LeBlanc in the 1998 election when the seat returned to the PCs. The seat has remained with the Progressive Conservative Party ever since.
Former cabinet minister Neil LeBlanc was among those celebrating the byelection win with party supporters. Asked what message he sees the byelection as sending – when voters could have chosen to be on the government side had they voted for the Liberal candidate – he said, “You have a situation here we’re you’ve had MLAs who have worked hard for the local constituency. We’ve been blessed as Conservatives that we’ve had some good members. And I do think there is a pent-up anger as to how the health care issue is being addressed. I think they looked at Colton as someone who understood those issues, who had the potential to bring something to the table.”
Chris d’Entremont, the last MLA to hold this seat, called the byelection result “a real test of Stephen McNeil’s leadership.”
“People rejected it,” he said, saying concern over health care dominates people’s feelings, but there are other concerns such as education and how the ferry situation has been handled. "There’s a whole bunch of issues that I think really came to a head during the election."
The mood, understandably, was more somber during the evening at the West Pubnico Legion where Liberal candidate Charlene LeBlanc and her supporters had gathered. As the results came in people were at least hoping for a closer margin.
“We might have a tough night tonight, everybody,” Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill told supporters as the poll results were coming in. “Charlene was awesome. Everybody that I talked to thought very highly of Charlene….She took a really big risk of putting her name on ballot,” Churchill said, saying only those who put their names on a ballot really understand what it means to put yourself out before the electorate. He said she worked extremely hard during the campaign and was deserving of the party's support and thanks for running in this byelection.
Asked how the byelection result reflected on the Liberal party, Churchill said while the margin was large in this byelection, he has witnessed the Liberal vote growing in Progressive Conservative ridings in byelections, when looking at historical statistics.
As for the Colton LeBlanc, he says he is ready to tackle the needs of the constituency.
“I want people to understand that I’m still Colton. I’m still the same person that I was yesterday. That I’m accessible. That I’m ready to help out, that if they give me a call I’ll do my best to find them an answer to help them solve their issues,” he said.