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Federal Election

Meet the candidates: Dartmouth-Cole Harbour

As voting day approaches, the Signal has profiled the candidates in three Halifax-area ridings.

8 min read
Elections Canada

Dartmouth-Cole Harbour consists principally of the old City of Dartmouth and Cole Harbour. According to the 2016 census, it had a population of 92,301, up 1.2 per cent from 2011. The median age of residents was 43.3 and the median after-tax household income was $57,584.

Emma Norton, NDP

With election day approaching, Emma Norton’s Dartmouth-Cole Harbour campaign is pulling out all the stops as the NDP has tracked up several percentage points in national polls since the leaders’ debates.

Norton, a graduate from the University of King’s College with a combined honours degree in environment, sustainability, and society, and international development studies, has spearheaded a campaign focused on the climate crisis and a green economy.

“The pillar of my platform is making a transition to a low-carbon economy while leaving no one behind,” says Norton. “So it’s health care; it’s climate action; it’s strong social programs.”

Campaigning against Liberal incumbent Darren Fisher, Norton hopes to become one of the youngest members of Parliament while working towards a green new deal for Canada.

“I understand that people don’t trust this political system,” said Norton, “but part of the reason is we keep electing people that we can’t trust.”

Norton became a canvasser with the Ecology Action Centre after graduating, calling it a “hard job” that taught her how “to connect people to something you’re passionate about.” Soon after, Norton was named energy efficiency coordinator. Norton believes her experience at the Ecology Action Centre has helped her campaign as her work focused on the transition to a green economy.

At 29, Norton is young, but says, “The only people that use (my age) against me are the people who wouldn’t support me anyway.”

caption Emma Norton
Stephen Wentzell

Norton is one of only two Nova Scotians endorsed by Our Time, a youth-led organization devoted to making the climate crisis a priority this campaign period. Our Time has endorsed candidates across the country that they believe will champion a green new deal for all Canadians, encompassing issues of climate and migrant justice, access to education and transitioning into a green economy.

Norton’s campaign had spent $490 on Facebook and Instagram ads from June to Oct. 16, half of that in the last seven days up to Oct. 16. This is well behind the Liberal incumbent, Fisher.

“The NDP’s time has come. We are picking up a lot of momentum across this country under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh and people are ready for change, and they’re ready for someone who doesn’t try to instill fear to get their vote,” said Norton.

Jamie Masse, Provincial Secretary for the NSNDP, believes Norton would bring a voice to Ottawa that’s been lacking in Atlantic Canada.

“I’m voting out of hope,” said Masse. “We’ve been asked to vote out of fear for a long time in this country … Her tenacity and her courage has been inspiring and that really bodes well for voting out of hope.”

Norton calls herself a strong listener who can be scrappy when she needs to be, saying she’s not ready to give up.

“This is a riding where you can vote for who you want,” says Norton. “The more that we vote for the lesser evil, the more evil we become.”

Lil MacPherson, Green Party

Lil MacPherson has always loved the rain.

On Oct. 17, four days before election night, Halifax was in the midst of a windy rainstorm. Power flickered, and the rain roared with a force that demanded attention.

It was that inherent love for rain that directed MacPherson’s attention to the climate. When she was a young girl, she learned about acid rain. That’s when she knew something was wrong, that the earth needed protecting.

Flash forward 30 some years, and the young girl grew into a woman carrying the same agenda,  except that agenda started off looking more like a menu.

MacPherson founded The Wooden Monkey restaurant 15 years ago. It now has two locations and she continues to co-own it while on the campaign trail. Food security is her biggest concern when analyzing the effects of climate change, so MacPherson adapted her restaurant to continue a cycle of local support. The Wooden Monkey works with 40 small businesses, and between 13 to 16 farms at all times.

Signal staff

“The Wooden Monkey was born to help bring the food systems back up –– to really support the farmers, really support all of the businesses’ and become a really strong and resilient as a province,” MacPherson said.

A self-proclaimed, ‘food defender,’ MacPherson believes that the food industry is killing the planet, but it can also save the planet.

And, it was at the restaurant where she read a report done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She took the warning to heart, and after sitting, feeling, and digesting the information she’d read, she realized she had to do more.

“I’ve been trying to fight to make it a better world, but that was really a shocking statement that came out –– I realized I had to do something. I have to get involved in politics somehow,” she said.

MacPherson ran for Halifax mayor in 2016, gaining more than 20 per cent of the vote in losing to Mike Savage.

“I really found that I could share my own ideas. Now I have to be a little more careful because I’m running for a party that has a platform,” she explained.

Nonetheless, she’s been enjoying the ride.

“Everybody’s got their hearts in the right places, everybody’s doing it for the right reasons. We’re not doing this because we want a career; we’re doing this because we want change,” she said.

MacPherson has spent under $100 on advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, compared to hundreds ,or thousands, by some of her opponents.

In the last federal election, the Green Party won 3.4 per-cent of votes in the riding.

MacPherson grew up in Dartmouth, travelled in young adulthood, then found her way back to her roots. She lives in the Dartmouth-area, in a house valued for taxes at $81,750.

The main issues she’s heard about in her riding have been concerning education, poverty, pharmacare, transportation and climate change.

“I’m a working-class person, I’m a regular Dartmouthian, I grew up here. I want them (voters) to know I’m honest, and hardworking, and really dedicated to change. I’m doing it for them,” she said.

“I’ve been an activist my whole life, and now I want to do it full time.”

Darren Fisher, Liberal

Darren Fisher is running for re-election as the MP of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. While he has been working in local politics since 2009, he didn’t originally see himself being a politician.

“I was always somewhat interested in politics, but I wouldn’t have necessarily suggested that I would have seen myself running,” said Fisher in an interview at his campaign headquarters.

“When I first got into politics, I was planning to back somebody else until they decided not to run. Then I chose to run.”

Fisher won that election in 2009 for a spot on Halifax Regional Council. He continued to work on that council until 2015, when a light-bulb moment inspired him to run to be the MP for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

caption Darren Fisher
Emily McRae

“When I was on council, I tried to get things done for mercury in our landfills and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it through the province, and I couldn’t do it through the city. It was apparent I would have to do it through the federal government,” said Fisher.

Fisher sponsored a private member’s bill that was passed and given royal assent in 2017, the National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act. This bill required the development of a national strategy “for the safe and environmentally sound disposal” of light bulbs containing the toxic heavy metal.

“Up until recently we threw them in the garbage. We’re working very hard to get those out of our landfills.”

Fisher says his other major reason for running for office is he “wanted to be a positive influence on the community” once he had children. He has two children with his wife, Anne.

Fisher is excited by the possible things he can do if re-elected.

“I want to move so far forward on environment. There’s so many amazing companies in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour doing amazing things with clean energy and clean tech, and I want to see those companies succeed…I’m looking forward to the environment as the major issue and also as a major stimulator in the economy,” said Fisher.

Fisher notes that he has already seen improvements in his riding.

“I’m 54 and I recall when my peers were going to school…they had to leave Nova Scotia,” he said.

“Now I’m finding people are staying here. Not only staying here, we have people coming back.”

Fisher is campaigning online as well as in the community, having spent $4,999 on Facebook and Instagram ads from June to Oct. 16, according to the Facebook ad library. Of that, $2,235 was spent in the last week up to Oct. 16. Current ads include targeted get-out-the vote ads seen by thousands of Facebook/Instagram users.

Fisher has lived in Dartmouth his entire life, and lives in the Lexington area in a home assessed for taxes at $342,500.

“This community has been my passion for my whole life. I love this area, I love the people in it, and I am honoured and proud to be the representative and to be their voice in Ottawa. I’m absolutely so fortunate to be able to do so.”

Jason Cole, Conservative

Jason Cole is a businessperson and pastor at City Heights Church. He lives in Portland Hills. Former Dartmouth mayor Gloria McCluskey endorsed Cole in September. Numerous attempts were made to arrange an interview with Cole. These were unsuccessful.


Editor's Note

These profiles were prepared by students in the 3rd year Advanced Reporting course

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About the author

Stephen Wentzell

Stephen Wentzell is an ambitious and resilient investigative writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been a journalist for a third of his life....

Brooklyn Connolly

Brooklyn is a journalist based in Halifax, N.S. She's passionate about all things health, policy, and education. Her work has been seen in the...

Emily McRae

Emily McRae is a journalist based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Kheira Morellon

Kheira is a french immigrant currently living in Halifax. She is passionate about languages and is looking to bring more coverage to the Franco-Canadian...

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  1. M


    Where’s Michelle Lindsay of the PPC? Seems like the profiles were prepared by students in a fake news course to me.
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