Federal Election

Meet the candidates: Halifax West

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

This story contains a correction

Editor's Note: These profiles were prepared by students in the 3rd year Advanced Reporting course

Halifax West is a large suburban and ex-urban riding comprising Fairview, Rockingham, Clayton Park, Clayton Park West and a more sparsely settled area stretching between Highways 101 and 102 from Sackville to Upper Tantallon. According to the 2016 census, it had a population of 96,255, up 10 per cent from 2011. The median age of residents was 39.7 and the median after-tax household income was $60,465.

Geoff Regan, Liberal

Geoff Regan, 59, is once again representing the Liberal Party in Nova Scotia’s Halifax West riding. He has won the riding in seven of eight elections he has contested.

Regan moved to the area when he was about 10 years old and has remained there since. He and his wife live in Bedford.

Politics runs in the Regan bloodline. His father, Gerald Regan, was the former premier of Nova Scotia and a cabinet minister under former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and his maternal grandfather was an MP in Saskatchewan.

“I saw (my dad) as someone who worked very hard trying to make life better for other people,” says Regan. “I saw that as something that was worthwhile and meaningful.”

In his early 20s, Regan “wasn’t at all convinced” that he would be a politician. He had the basic interest but there was only one problem: he wasn’t comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

Regan struggled with a speech impediment called ‘cluttering,’ which is when someone doesn’t pronounce all the sounds in the word due to how fast they’re speaking. Regan attended speech therapy as well as joining the non-profit organization Toastmasters.

Geoff Regan   Hollie Uffindell

Toastmasters is made up of people who want to improve their public speaking skills in a supportive atmosphere. Regan was involved with the organization for nine years and says that without it he wouldn’t be able to do what he does today.

It may come as no surprise that Regan married someone also involved in politics. Regan has been married to Kelly Regan for 26 years. She is minister of community services and status of women and the Liberal MLA for Bedford.

The couple have three adult children. Regan adopted his spouse’s daughters, Caitlin and Nicole, after they married in 1993, the same year he was first elected in Halifax West. Three years later, Kelly gave birth to their son, Harrison.

Regan spends his free time focusing on photography and painting. He was introduced to the joys of painting when a friend asked him, former Ontario Premier Bob Rae and Justin Trudeau to create small works for a fundraising breakfast auction. It only took one small Dollar Store canvas and some acrylic paint to unleash Regan’s inner artist.

“I’ve only done about nine paintings because I don’t have much time,” Regan says jokingly. “I had thought for a while that it would be nice to try painting from some of my photographs and see what it’s like. I figured that it wouldn’t happen until much later in life, but here was a reason to do it.”

When he isn’t holding local ‘Let’s Talk’ town hall meetings, “refereeing” in the House of Commons as speaker or tapping into his artistic side, Regan is an avid runner and cyclist. He exercises daily to relieve stress and connect with nature.

A Halifax West issue is the preservation and expansion of the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes park. Recently the Government of Canada gave the city $860,000 to purchase land to expand the park. The combination of a wildlife area and recreational area close to the city is highly important to Regan.

“I enjoy cycling in Gatineau Park when I’m in Ottawa,” says Regan. “I think that having that kind of a park close to the city … makes that metropolitan area healthier.”

Regan is also concerned with climate change, health care and employment.

“(Halifax is) becoming more of a magnet and people are actually coming back here or to here to work,” Regan says.  Even with the recent developments of a national record low unemployment, Regan goes on to say that, “It hasn’t yet solved all problems for all people.”

According to Facebook’s ad library, Regan had spent $6,205 on Facebook and Instagram advertising since June of this year, $2,089 of that in the week between Oct. 10 and 16. On October 18, he began running an ad urging targeted social media users to get out and vote. It had been seen by between 5,000 and 10,000 people by Oct. 19.

Jacob Wilson, NDP

When Jacob Wilson was looking for NDP candidates for the upcoming federal election, he often heard the same thing: How about you?

“‘Well why don’t you run? You are a community advocate, you seem like you should be able to do it, and you should do it,’” said Wilson. “And you know, it’s ironic – it was a lot of people’s recommendation to me that sort of set me on that course.”

Between this encouragement and his belief that it wouldn’t be “a good election” without someone representing the NDP, Wilson decided to run for them in Halifax West.

Wilson spent most of his childhood in Bedford, graduating from Charles P. Allen High School in 2013. Afterwards, he left to study at York University, but came back every summer and worked in construction. Once he graduated from York with a political science degree, he decided to move back home to where he grew up and where his family still lives, Bedford.

“This sounds very sentimental, but it’s true. When I moved to Ontario, I missed the ocean, and I missed the way of life here and I missed the way that people acted around each other,” said Wilson.

Rather than trying to find a job relating to political science, Wilson decided to continue working in construction and put his degree to use through activism. He’s been involved with Solidarity K’jipuktuk-Halifax, the fight to stop Alton Gas and the Fight for $15 and Fairness. Through his activism, Wilson has “heard the concerns of all kinds of people, from business owners to minimum wage workers, to Indigenous folks and people of colour.”

While knocking on doors, the top two issues Wilson heard were the climate crisis and healthcare crisis. Some people said they can’t find a family doctor, and others said they are stuck choosing between eating or paying for their medication.

Jacob Wilson speaks with Lucasville, NS resident Pat McGrath   Alexander Johnson

“And that’s a ridiculous choice – no one should have to make that choice in Canada,” said Wilson.

People have also been concerned about immigration, “either because they are immigrants themselves or because they have family that they’re trying to get to immigrate.”

“You’re going door-to-door in Fairview, Clayton Park, Bedford, and some people will be like, ‘I’m a permanent resident, I can’t vote, but I am concerned about whether I can get my grandfather here,’ or something along those lines,” he said.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census, 15.5 per cent of residents of Halifax West are immigrants, and 8.3 per cent are non-citizens.

Raising questions

One reason why it’s so important for Wilson to have an NDP candidate running in Halifax West is to make sure there is someone to question the other parties.

“You know, if there isn’t a candidate that’s presenting the NDP’s vision, or going on stage and talking to people, these questions don’t get asked,” said Wilson. “If you don’t have a voice in the room who is raising the rights of Indigenous peoples, or raising queer rights or making sure to question power, power is just going to continue to control the narrative.”

“(Geoff Regan) has been an MP in Halifax West longer than I’ve been alive. And that’s a little daunting.” said Wilson, who will be 25 by election night.

“When you’re running against an incumbent, the deck is very much stacked against you. But, the thing that is good about that is that people are often really willing to listen.”

Wilson hasn’t spent nearly as much as Regan on Facebook ads, less than $100. In one ad that started running Oct. 11, he takes a gentle swipe at Regan, “Geoff Regan may be the speaker, but Halifax West deserves someone who who (sic) speaks for you.”

During the last federal election in 2015, the NDP’s Joanne Hussey, got 11.8 per cent of the vote, coming in third.

Wilson is young, but he said he’s “seen a heck of a lot.” While doing work on public housing, he’s seen what people living there go through. He’s seen his own family struggle with health problems.

“I may be young, but I’ve got more than enough experience under my belt to listen and to speak for the people in Halifax West.”

Richard Zurawski, Green Party

Less than a week before the federal election, Green Party candidate Richard Zurawski thinks change could be coming.

“There’s a good chance that there may be a surprise coming in Nova Scotia with the Greens,” the Halifax West candidate says.

This comes after Zurawski, a self-described “realist,” said earlier this year that there was little chance of him upsetting Geoff Regan.

In the 2015 federal election, Zurawski, who was running for the Green Party for the first time, received 3.9 per cent of the vote.

The 67-year-old Zurawski hasn’t always represented the Greens. In 2003, he ran in the Bedford riding in the Nova Scotia provincial general election for the Liberals. With 34 per cent of the vote, he came second behind Conservative Peter Christie.

Richard Zurawski   Sarah Moore

At the municipal level, Zurawski has represented District 12 on the Halifax Regional Council since 2016, and is the chair of the Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee.

He first got involved in politics because he feels, “It’s easier to work from within than without” to get peoples’ attention and create change.

He chose to represent the Green Party in 2015 and in this election because he didn’t like the climate policies of the major parties.

“As a climate scientist and a climate researcher, it just didn’t make any sense to me. How can we have all this information and not do anything?” he says. “My purpose is to say (to voters) ‘Wake up. I’m only running because of climate change.'”

Although the Green Party has spent over $15,000 in Facebook and Instagram advertising from Oct. 7 to 13, Zurawski has spent no money on ads this election campaign.

Zurawski has a background in science, having received an undergraduate degree in physics and math from the University of Toronto. He moved to Halifax in 1988 and got a master’s of arts degree in education from Mount Saint Vincent University that focused on how television represents science. He is working on his PhD in education from Mount St. Vincent.

He has worked for CBC, CTV, GlobalTV and Rogers Media as a meteorologist and science reporter, produced science documentaries, taught courses at Saint Mary’s University and the Mount, written four books and worked as a radio science talk show host.

Zurawski is married to Susan Mary Zurawski and they have lived in a house near Birch Cove since 2000. The property is currently valued at $267,800.

In this election, he says that the environment is “the only issue.” He says that constituents in the Halifax West riding also want him to address jobs, transportation and education. Zurawski says that those issues should be looked at “though that lens” of the climate crisis.

He says that party loyalty – the type where “you could run a dead cat in office and they would vote for that dead cat” – is “stupid.” Instead, says Zurawski, voters should be asking of their candidates, “Are you doing the right thing?”

Since Oct. 8, he’s been on a hunger strike, only consuming water with orange and lemon slices, and a cup of coffee each day until the election. Some critics have called it a ploy to get more votes, while Zurawski says the strike is to draw attention food shortages that will happen because of climate change.

In his spare time, Zurawski enjoys reading. At his office at City Hall, his collection of books includes The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris, Memoirs of a Revolutionist by Peter Kropotkin and The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock. He also plays guitar and likes to go for hikes in the woods with his two border collies.

Fred Shuman, Conservative

Fred Shuman is hoping to be the first Conservative to win Halifax West since 1988.

According to the Conservative Party official website Fred Shuman was born in Edmonton. He served in the United States Army for 19 years as a paratrooper and a helicopter pilot. In 1977, Shuman moved to Nova Scotia to fly helicopters and continues to this day to fly on contract here.

In 1987, Shuman and his wife Claudette Yvonne Shuman opened a business called Say it with Stitches Inc in Bedford. In 2016, Shuman was recognized as the Bedford Distinguished Volunteer of the year. He was nominated to represent the Conservative Party in Halifax West electoral district on June 17, 2019.

Signal staff

Shuman and his wife reside in Bedford where they own a house valued for taxes at $565,600.

He has not run any Facebook ads of his own, but the Conservative Party of Canada spent between $200 and $998 on two ads promoting an event with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Shuman in Bedford, in early October, according to the Facebook ad library.

Shuman took over the role to represent conservatives in Halifax West electoral after an unsuccessful attempt in 2015 by Micheal McGinnis, who got 7,837 votes.

Repeated attempts were made to arrange an interview with Shuman, but a time could not be arranged.

Editor's Note: These profiles were prepared by students in the 3rd year Advanced Reporting course

Correction: Oct. 25, 2019: An earlier version of this story misstated that Carole Harrison was a former member of Parliament.

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