Mike Kelloway admits he spent a tense few hours watching the early election results roll in from his childhood home on Chapel Drive in Glace Bay.
For much of the night, it was a neck-and-neck race as Kelloway and Conservative candidate Alfie MacLeod traded leads in the race to take longtime former Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner’s seat in the House of Commons.
“Let’s just say I put 10,000 steps walking up the same street tonight — and the street’s not that big,” Kelloway said, pointing to his smartphone, after arriving at the Savoy Theatre to watch the final results come in with his family, friends and supporters. “I’ve said about this process from Day 1, and I’ll say it at the end of it: this has been a humbling process for me. It’s been a learning journey for me, and tonight was another piece of it. When you put your name on a ballot, which obviously the seven candidates did, you’re putting yourself out there. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of guts to do that.”
In the end it paid off for Kelloway, with the 48-year-old special project administrator at the local Nova Scotia Community College campus and co-founder of the community development group Bay it Forward comfortably besting longtime MLA Alfie MacLeod by more than 1,500 votes.
Macleod didn't concede until after midnight on election night. The Cape Breton Post reached out to MacLeod on Tuesday, but did not receive a reply by press deadline.
Kelloway, who now lives in Sydney River, called MacLeod a “formidable opponent,” adding “he has served Nova Scotia very well.”
“I thought this would be a fight and I think Alfie would say the same,” he said.
“There are some really top-level people that have put their name forward in Cape Breton-Canso, so this is great for democracy. It’s great for the riding to have that diversity of opinion, of belief system, of party platform.”
Kelloway said he believes several factors made the difference, including the policies laid out in the Liberal platform, such as universal pharmacare and increasing the Canada Pension Plan. He said his role recruiting doctors with Bay it Forward by working with local doctors to recruit new ones also resonated with people on the doorsteps.
He said his first order of business will be to sit down with his Liberal colleagues in the Atlantic caucus as well as holding a series of community meetings across his new constituency. He also plans to have a roaming office for the largely rural riding where Glace Bay, which has a population of about 17,500, is largest urban community. In addition to a vast horseshoe-shaped portion of Cape Breton, the riding extends beyond the Canso Causeway to include a portion of mainland Nova Scotia.
“My slogan has been ‘It starts with community,’ and I really believe that, so I want to sit down with my community and have some interesting discussions about moving forward and going forward,” he said.
“The riding is five municipalities strong, and when it’s half of the CBRM, all of Richmond County, all of Inverness County, much of Guysborough County and half of Antigonish County, you want to make sure that you have an office obviously, but you also want to reach out and engage people. One of the things I’ve heard, especially in the rural parts of this riding, is more engagement and more two-way communication between the elected officials and the communities. My background is in rural development, so I get it, so I want to bring democracy and their representative to them.”
Cape Breton-Canso Results (with 216 of 216 polls reporting)
- Mike Kelloway (Liberal): 16,097 (38.5 per cent)
- Alfie MacLeod (Conservative): 14,478 (34.6 per cent)
- Laurie Suitor (NDP): 6,258 (15 per cent)
- Clive Doucet (Green Party): 3,246 (7.8 per cent)
- Billy Joyce (People's Party of Canada): 968 (2.3 per cent)
- Michelle Dockrill (Independent): 671 (1.6 per cent)
- Darlene Lynn LeBlanc (National Citizens Alliance): 139 (0.3 per cent)