Bill Muirhead, front, is running for the Nova Scotia Liberals in Pictou Centre. Pictured in back from left are his wife Vera with supporters Norm and Anne MacLeod. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
Bill Muirhead is used to working on the frontlines. Working as first responder since he was 16 with MacDonald Brothers ambulance service and later as a police officer and paramedic, he’s spent his life helping people and being a voice for victims. Now he wants the chance to be the voice for Pictou Centre residents.
Muirhead, who was born and raised in Stellarton, is running for the Liberals in Pictou Centre. Quite readily he will admit he’s an underdog in the race against two candidates who have both held seats and cabinet posts in the past. But he believes he can offer something different – change. And that’s something he believes could propel him from third to first.
“People are tired. They thought a change was coming four years ago. They saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but it was a train.”
Muirhead said he’s always been a political junkie interested in all levels of politics. In the past he aligned more with the federal Tories. He was a supporter of Danny MacLeod when he ran for the Conservatives in Pictou Centre.
“God rest him. I wish he was here,” Muirhead says of MacLeod. “He’s the best Pictou Centre candidate we ever had.”
But Muirhead said he became disenchanted with the provincial Conservatives. Enter Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.
While he had always toyed with the idea of running for a political position, it was McNeil who convinced him to finally take the plunge.
“When Stephen came to me and talked to me with his mission for Nova Scotia. It was like that ta-dah moment saying this was the guy,” he said.
Muirhead said he’s always liked McNeil and describes him as a “steady hand” who knows how to handle himself well and answer questions. But more importantly, he said, he understands the trials and tribulations of Nova Scotians.
“He knows the troubles people have. Like myself, I’m just a paycheque-to-paycheque medic,” Muirhead said. “Every second Friday I’ve got to sit there and say ‘I can pay this or I can pay that. I can put that off another two weeks.’”
When he heard McNeil, who grew up in a family of 17, talk of the struggles of Nova Scotians, he connected.
“I understood where he was coming from, I guess I drank the Kool-Aid as they would say.”
Because of his experience as a paramedic, Muirhead believes he can be a voice for health care in Nova Scotia.
Working in the field and at the hospitals in Tatamagouche and Pugwash when doctors aren’t available, he knows first hand the struggles of the industry. He’s particularly bothered by the number of paramedics who leave for the oilrigs out west.
“We lost 90-some paramedics alone last year,” he said. “We need to keep those paramedics here and we need to keep our nurses and our doctors here.”
Another issue he believes is of significant importance this election is education. Over the last four years, he says the NDP-led government has taken $55 million out of education. That’s money he says the Liberals would put back to help provide people across the province, including here in Pictou County, the help they need.
“These kids are falling between the cracks,” he said. “Children are our future. We need to turn the barrel on that one. We need to put the money back in the fund.”
Even if he is elected, Muirhead says he’ll continue to work a couple of shifts a month with EHS so he doesn’t lose touch with the day-to-day struggles. He says he’d donate the money he makes from that to charity.
Provincially, Muirhead feels confident that the Liberals will form government. He hopes that when they do, he’s able to bring Pictou County’s issues to provincial ears.
“I’m here to listen. I’m here to help. I do what I say. I follow through,” he said. “I want to help the people of Pictou Centre to help make things better.”
Street by street, block by block, person for person, call for call, Muirhead is reaching out to the community and offering change.
“My feeling is that I’m in last place and I’m trying to get to first place,” he said. “I think it’s a three-way race. I’m third and I want to be first.”