Cuzner’s resignation creates possibilities in Cape Breton-Canso

News that long-time Member of Parliament Rodger Cuzner will not seek re-election in the riding of Cape Breton-Canso in the upcoming federal election has created some interesting scenarios.

On April 26 in his hometown of Glace Bay, Cuzner announced he would not be seeking a seventh term this October. Explaining he considered stepping away since December, Cuzner said his decision “hardened” over time.

Despite controversy surrounding the SNC-Lavalin affair, Cuzner said that played no role in his decision, noting he “would be disappointed” had Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not tried to save 9,000 jobs.

Cuzner did point to the challenges in representing a geographically vast riding with 53 volunteer fire departments and 18 legions that stretches from Cheticamp, to Canso, and over to Glace Bay.

While speaking with The Reporter on March 26, Cuzner acknowledged that he was “disappointed” with the Prime Minister’s decision not to appoint him into cabinet. However, Cuzner still supports the Liberal Party and Trudeau, explaining he remains “proud” of the government and what was accomplished like leveling the playing field to under-represented groups in the country.

Cuzner is also very optimistic of his party’s chances in October and excited for the platform they will be presenting to voters, including universal pharmacare, high speed Internet, the Home Buyers Plan, and the Canada Child Benefit.

If his only considerations were the Liberal platform and the possibility of a Conservative government, Cuzner said he would’ve announced his decision to re-offer long ago. Of particular concern to him is the rise of groups like the Yellow Vest movement and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s unwillingness to push back on extremism.

First elected to the House of Commons in 2000, Cuzner has since been re-elected five times in the riding encompassing most of the Strait area, as well as parts of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

In 2015, he received 74 per cent of the popular vote in the riding and didn’t lose one poll.

But four years later, the idea that the next Liberal candidate will run the table in the riding seems a very remote possibility.

Still regarded as a seat that is leaning Liberal despite Cuzner’s departure, the Conservative Party, New Democrats, the Green Party, and now the People’s Party of Canada, will have their work cut-out for them if they hope to move this seat from the red column.

Nationally, public opinion polls show the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals, especially in the west, the Liberals ahead in Quebec, and in closes races in every other part of the country, including Atlantic Canada; and that could be how these parties turn this seat a different colour in October.

If local candidates and campaigns are able to harness the national mood – which seems to be wary of Trudeau personally – and translate it to the local level in a message that resonates, one of these parties could very well lay the foundation for a major political upset.

Of course, some parties might have more of an edge than others. The NDP is the only other party to win this riding, but the Conservatives have the most realistic chance at winning this seat, considering the results of the provincial election. That does require accepting the unfounded assumption that all Progressive Conservative votes will go to the Conservatives.

If there is a three-way vote split among the more established national parties and candidates, there is a small chance that either the Greens or the PPC could come up the middle and squeak one out.

These possibilities will hopefully spur the interest of solid candidates to come forward in Cape Breton-Canso, creating a local race with national implications that will be closely watched from coast-to-coast.