PORT HAWKESBURY: An experienced social worker defeated a retired mill worker, a local business owner and the town’s former CAO in Saturday’s special election for the vacant Port Hawkesbury Town Council seat.
Blaine MacQuarrie, a political newcomer, came away with 476 votes, with Dave Ryan coming in second place with 359 votes during the special election on December 15 which saw a voter turnout of roughly 45 per cent.
Michele Tabensky finished third with 289 votes and Maris Freimanis was fourth with 103 votes.
After the results become official, MacQuarrie will serve the remainder of former town councillor Jeremy White’s term.
“I’m just really grateful that the residents have given me an opportunity to join council and I’m just very appreciative of this opportunity,” he told The Reporter Tuesday morning. “I know it’s a big learning curve, there’s a lot to the role of a councillor and there’s a lot for me to learn over the next while but I’m very much looking forward to being sworn in and working with the mayor and existing council.”
During MacQuarrie’s campaign, he hosted a town hall to interact, engage and find out first-hand the real issues facing the residents, and spent countless hours knocking on doors and talking to voters, reaching around two-thirds of residents, to win his first election.
He aims to focus on healthcare, the physician issue and housing.
“The whole issue of doctor shortages here and the closures of the ER department at the Strait Richmond Hospital was something that came up very frequently going door-to-door,” he said. “The issue of housing, senior housing, affordable housing, and accessible housing that too came up going door-to-door.”
There has been a total of 30 days the ER was closed due to physician coverage, the new councillor noted.
“To me and to most of the people in the community this is really not acceptable,” he said. “That’s a priority, that’s not something council’s going to change, we have to work with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and we have to advocate to make sure we’re on the radar of the health authority addressing that issue.”
MacQuarrie said his 28 years as a social worker lends itself naturally to a promise to listen to constituent concerns and work to solve their problems.
He added a concern that Port Hawkesbury is not attracting development like other communities.
“What are the barriers here? How come we’re not seeing the same sort of developments taking place here in Port Hawkesbury?” he said. “The biggest thing I took away overall from my campaign was there is a real sense of concern about where we’re going – business wise there hasn’t been a lot of development going on for quite some time.”
MacQuarrie will be sworn in as the town’s fourth councillor during the regular council meeting on January 8.