Matt Haley

PETIT DE GRAT: The Liberals are hoping their new candidate can turn the riding of Richmond red again.

On May 3, Matt Haley was acclaimed as the Nova Scotia Liberal Party’s candidate in a virtual nomination meeting which featured former Richmond MLA and provincial cabinet minister Michel Samson.

“We saw it in the last municipal election, there’s a real movement to get progressive on finding solutions to our problems,” Haley told The Reporter. “I think with a strong voice that really caters to making sure that rural Nova Scotia and Richmond priorities are back at the table on the side of government, we can make a lot of things happen, and I’m excited by that.”

Haley, 34, made his first run at politics when he sought the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of Cape Breton-Canso in 2019, narrowly losing to eventual MP Mike Kelloway.

Since the federal nomination meeting, Haley said he has worked hard to raise his profile, and has built up a network of contacts, noting he has seen “a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of interest” from volunteers looking to help out with his campaign.

“I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of people who didn’t know me before the last nomination, and I’ve put a lot of effort into bringing Liberals back together,” Haley noted. “Michel had been there for 19 years, he did amazing work. It was maybe taken for granted by some Liberals that we were strong in a Liberal riding. I think that we really needed to get back together, and 2019 that was our opportunity, and those contacts and the people I’ve met and talked with, no doubt, that serves as the basis of our team for the election coming up.”

After growing in a small community in the Ottawa Valley, Haley moved to Montreal, then to Dartmouth where he graduated from École du Carrefour.

Haley graduated from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Engineering and moved to Petit de Grat in 2012 with his wife Chantal (the daughter of Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook MP Daryl Samson) after being hired by the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial as coordinator of operations.

“It took maybe a handful of times to tell Chantal, ‘that’s where I want to be.’ People say it all the time it’s God’s country but it’s so amazing and the people are so incredible. As soon as I saw an opportunity for a job with the CSAP in Cape Breton, I ran with it,” he said. “We built our forever home. There’s no better place than this. I’ve lived all over the East Coast and I can’t say enough about it, the people especially. Some of us aren’t lucky enough to be born here but I’ve found it.”

Haley completed his new home in 2017, and now has three children.

“I’m not running for Matt, I’m running for all the communities in Richmond,” he stated. “I want to make sure that whatever the priorities are in every community are the ones that I’m pushing for.”

In his nine years on Isle Madame, Haley said he has volunteered with groups like the Petit de Grat Beautification Society and the Arichat Community Development Association.

“We need more green spaces, we need some better social infrastructure to attract families and make sure that our residents have all the services they need,” he noted. “It was a young group of really motivated residents; people that want to get it done and want to get it done right.”

Haley said he has also been involved with various school activities and was recognized for his commitment to coaching in a variety of school sports.

“Since I’ve been here, I coached many years at École Beau-Port in soccer, and obviously the school plays a big part in our lives,” he explained. “My wife is a teacher, her whole family are a bunch of teachers and I work in education so any chance we have to be involved in the school community, we’re there.”

The Liberal candidate noted that he is “deeply committed” to working hard in an open, transparent and honest manner to ensure that Richmond County succeeds as it bounces back from the pandemic.

“There’s nothing like Richmond County,” he said. “I’ll give some concrete examples, the volunteerism in Richmond County, and how people young and old are just involved in everything. If you look at our population, people from the outside who don’t know Richmond might think that there’s not much to do but there’s so many activities, so many services being offered because of people really caring about Richmond so they volunteer.”

Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alan Paon has not officially announced whether she intends to run as an independent in the riding which was restored to a protected Acadian riding encompassing Richmond County, shortly after her win. Paon was removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus in 2019 and is unable to run under the Tory banner.

Paon defeated Samson in 2016 by 22 votes in a riding that then included the Town of Port Hawkesbury and parts of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Because of this boundary change, Haley said his Acadian roots and bilingualism will be a factor in the protected riding.

“I think that it’s fairly evident that there was some frustration from particular groups, especially throughout the province, but in particular in Richmond County,” Haley said about 2016. “We’ve got a new government, a new leader who brings a fresh perspective. At the end of the day, the boundaries have changed too. It highlights some different strategies and some different priorities.”

The only other person officially in the race is PC candidate Trevor Boudreau who was nominated last summer.