Cape Breton residents head to polls today

By Nancy King
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Oct. 16, 2004

Sydney - More than 100,000 eligible voters in five island municipalities could head to the polls today to elect new councils, school board members and rule on whether the province should be open for business on Sundays.

And at least one returning officer is predicting that voter turnout will be at its traditionally high levels, with the provincial Sunday shopping plebiscite possibly helping to boost numbers.

The Civic Centre on Sydney's Esplanade was a busy location Friday, with election workers picking up ballot boxes, and supervisors going to the many halls across the region that will serve as poll locations, readying them for the anticipated heavy voter turnout. In all more than 700 people will be working throughout the region on election day. "We're lucky in the CBRM that over the number of years we've always experienced higher turnouts, and we train our people appropriately for that," said returning officer Bernie White.

The additional contest of a provincial plebiscite poses a bit more of a challenge this year, White noted. He has previously said he's concerned by the length of time it took voters to fill out the plebiscite ballot during two advance polls. The ballot asks two separate questions whether there should be shopping in retail businesses not now permitted to be open on Sunday, and if so, whether it should be year-round or only on the six Sundays prior to Christmas. "We are concerned that it was put on our shoulders and hopefully it won't cause too much of a delay, we're asking for the indulgence of our voters so that they don't become frustrated," White said.

In the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, voters will choose between Mayor John Morgan and challenger Dan Fraser for who will lead the next council.

There are contests in all but one of the 16 municipal council districts - only incumbent District 5 councillor Darren Bruckschwaiger was elected by acclamation. About 10 per cent of eligible CBRM voters cast ballots in advance polls, which, when looking at trends from previous years, White said would indicate another 50,000 people will come through the region's polling stations today, meaning a high 60-70 per cent turnout.

Along with bringing some patience with them, White advised voters to consider visiting polls between noon and 5 p.m., noting early morning and the period just before polls close tend to be particularly busy. Anyone wanting to follow election results as they come in, can access instantly updated results on the CBRM's Web site.

Under the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, there are 28 people challenging for the board. All Cape Breton's seats on the province's Acadian school board, Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, were acclaimed.

There are only two council contests in Inverness County, with the remaining fours seats acclaimed.

In Victoria County, two council districts were acclaimed, with 11 seeking the other six seats.

One councillor is acclaimed in Richmond, while a total of 22 people are seeking office in the remaining nine districts.

In the Town of Port Hawkesbury, there will be no mayor's race, as no one came forward to challenge incumbent Billy Joe MacLean. There are eight people seeking the four at-large council seats in the town, including all incumbents.

Under the Strait Regional School Board all three Inverness County members and both Richmond County members were acclaimed.

The Sierra Club carried out a survey of CBRM candidates on environmental issues. Results of the Sierra Club survey can be accessed by calling Dan McMullin, 849-7904 or Bruno Marcocchio, 567-1132, or viewing the Web site