Federal candidates debate gets heated in Cumberland-Colchester riding
A good political debate will produce some fireworks, but an all candidates event in Nova Scotia’s Cumberland-Colchester riding got so heated, it had to be halted by moderators.
The Thursday debate in Wentworth turned into a very noisy battle between Conservative Scott Armstrong, Liberal Bill Casey and their supporters, after some of the debate rules were broken.
After three previous noisy debates, organizer and moderator Jordan Sprague announced before the debate rule changes, including no props, pamphlets, and be respectful,
The rules were followed for five minutes.
“Bill Casey was the first candidate to take a swing,” explains Sprague. “He held up pamphlets and props that Scott had sent out in the mail and then Scott rebutted. The audience went wild, everybody booing, chanting, and cheering.”
Casey admits he broke the rules.
“I didn’t know they changed the rules,” says Casey. “They said we couldn’t use props, I didn’t hear them say it but it wasn’t in the rules we got by email.”
“It was at the end of the campaign. It was our fourth debate, emotions are high,” adds Armstrong. “Sometimes that happens, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary, quite frankly.”
Cumberland-Colchester NDP candidate Wendy Robinson says she couldn’t believe what was unfolding.
“I thought it was extremely out of the ordinary,” she says. “After the second question, I thought I really don’t want to be here. I’m going to leave.”
But she didn’t, at that point.
“I was totally disgusted and overwhelmed,” Robinson adds, “the reaction from the audience and a couple of candidates.”
Sprague says after the formal one hour debate with a dozen questions from the moderator, there was to be a public forum with questions from the audience.
The forum was to have taken an hour, but never really got underway because the situation deteriorated so badly.
“The very first person in the line for the forum made an attack on the candidate,” Sprague explains, “which ended in a screaming match between him and the audience.”
“I could see how this was evolving,” adds Robinson. “I looked at the moderator and said I’m done. You can continue, but I’m done.”
“We had to call it quits,” says Sprague.
There is a history between Casey and Armstrong.
Casey was a Conservative who was kicked out of caucus over the Atlantic Accord years ago.
Armstrong, a former Conservative riding president stuck with Casey when he ran as an independent.
When Casey left politics, Armstrong ran and won as a Conservative.
“All is fair in love, war and politics,” says Armstrong.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” adds Casey, “but nobody got hurt.”
Both Casey and Armstrong felt the debate was fair to all participants.
Sprague says if there’s a good side to all of it, the passion demonstrated great interest in the upcoming election.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Rick Grant