By Eric Bourque
West Nova is a big place – the candidates seeking to win the seat in the federal election have a lot of ground to cover – and so it was on the road, in the eastern part of the riding, that Conservative candidate Greg Kerr was early last week when he took some time to discuss the campaign.
Asked what he had been hearing from people so far, Kerr said the ferry issue, understandably, is huge in the Yarmouth area, while the economy in a more general sense is an issue across the constituency.
“Locally in Yarmouth, the ferry would be top of mind,” Kerr said. “It’s not across the riding, but, in a related sense, it’s about jobs and the economy and I think the thing is, people were quite happy with the direction the country is going in. They seem a little concerned that we’re not through the recession yet … That’s the main reason we thought we should go for at least another year before an election because there’s a lot of work left to do on that whole economic front.”
The election was still three weeks away when Kerr was interviewed on April 11.
As far as other things people had been talking about, he said he found there was “a lot of interest in getting rid of the long-gun registry … Certainly people like the firemen’s tax credit, things like that.”
However, the ferry and the economy stand out, he said, noting that there is a connection between the two.
“It’s not just the ferry or lack of it,” he said. “I think it ties in with the sense that there are a lot of challenges and pressure on small (business), the private sector. They’ve gone through a lot already with the recession, so I would say the two issues kind of intertwine.”
A former MLA and provincial cabinet minister, Kerr is running in his third straight federal election. He fell short against Liberal Robert Thibault in 2006 and then won the seat in the last election in 2008.
It was a little over a year after the ’08 election when the news came that there would be no ferry service in 2010. Commenting on the ferry situation last week, Kerr said he has attended numerous meetings and events concerning the ferry and has always been prepared to discuss it. The federal government has a role to play – in partnership with others – in re-establishing a ferry service, he said.
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“I’ve said over and over, let’s find the right operator, then let’s all see what role we’re expected to play and certainly we’ll be a participant,” he said.
He cited the transfer of the ferry terminal to local control and the money the government is spending on terminal improvements as positive developments.
“I think the point I’d make,” he said, “(is) in spite of the hype that happens during an election, we have to stay focused on the long term. And the long term is to get the right boat in there with the right arrangements and the right support, the right investment, and make sure it’s sustainable and that sort of thing.”
Aside from hearing about issues like the ferry and the economy, Kerr said he had been getting some positive feedback from people.
“They point out they think that I’ve worked pretty hard overall for communities,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they agree with everything that’s been done, but certainly they feel that I’ve been there for the communities and that’s always encouraging.”
Acknowledging that any politician is likely to say things are going well during a campaign, Kerr said his sense is that people are prepared to elect another Conservative government.
“If people were unhappy – I’m talking about West Nova now – if they were unhappy with what we’ve delivered, I think I’d be hearing it pretty directly myself,” he said. “And I don’t just try to pick out Tory (supporters). I try to get into as many homes as possible because I want to hear what’s going on and, generally speaking, I think we’re getting a good response.”