Nova Scotia often appears on the surface to be less exciting than BC, but upon closer inspection our coastal home is full up on beauty, scandal, and surprises. Our provincial election on May 30th was no different. It may appear as the tame cousin of BC’s surprise GreeNDP coalition – but if you look a little closer, the election’s stranger details reveal themselves.
NS Liberal leader Stephen McNeil; PC leader Jamie Baillie; NDP leader Gary Burrill (photo: Global News)
Breaking the single-government streak
This was the first time a government won a second consecutive mandate since 1988, and a second majority no less. It is amazing to me that the Liberals under Stephen McNeil were the ones to do that. Over the past four years they have used union-busting tactics, bargained in bad faith, and undercut the public sector at every opportunity (see the great NSGEU campaign here), approved the Alton Gas storage project and the reopening of the Donkin Coal mine, doled out money to give banks a boost, allowed sensitive areas in the Atlantic to be explored for offshore oil and gas potential, decimated the film industry, and on and on.
As three white, middle-aged men “squared off”, I found myself debating whether to even stay up to watch the results come in, since the campaign overall was not terribly exciting. Ultimately, all three men won their seats and therefore the confidence to maintain their positions as party leaders for the time being. Gary Burrill of the NDP didn’t have a seat until the election (he was a former NDP MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and this time around ran in Halifax-Chebucto which had been held by Liberal Joachim Stroink) and there was speculation that if PC’s Jamie Baillie didn’t achieve more seats or if Premier (Liberal) Stephen McNeil lost power, it might be time for new leadership.
Council of Canadians’ issues in the election
The Council provided sample questions on our issues, including water, health care, trade and energy, found here. We also supported the organizing of an all-party debate with several other progressive organizations; read more or watch the video of that event here.
Nova Scotia chapters were active during the election as well, with Inverness County raising forestry and biomass issues with their local candidates and the South Shore working on offshore oil and gas. The North Shore chapter has been working tirelessly for years to achieve electoral reform.
Joanna Padelt of the Inverness County chapter facilitates session on forestry issues, Dec2016 (photo: Port Hawkesbury Reporter)
Of note on the PCs: despite overall campaigning to the left of the Liberals during this election period, they did show their stripes when they announced they would lift the fracking moratorium, established in 2014 by then Liberal Energy Minister Andrew Younger.
Other interesting tidbits and updates
In terms of candidates for each party, representation is still not even close to being reflective of the diversity of the province. The NDP’s slate of candidates came closest to gender parity at 23 out of a possible 51 candidates identifying as female. The PC’s platform encouraged more Indigenous and African-Nova Scotians to run for politics, by promising higher per-voter funding for parties for every vote cast for people of colour and women.
Former Liberal Community Services minister Joanne Bernard lost because of “puppies and rainbows” promises, and Michel Samson lost his riding of Cape Breton – Richmond by 20 seats in a major upset. He is not contesting the results, but 3 others are: Denise Patterson-Refuse, NDP (Chester-St. Margaret’s, who lost by 90 votes to Liberal Hugh MacKay); Rob Wolfe, PC (Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie, who lost by 71 votes to Liberal Lloyd Hines); and Dan McNaughton, PC (Waverley-Fall River-Beaverbank, who lost by 66 votes to Liberal Bill Horne). McNaughton was also accused of making racists comments by a long-time PC supporter in his riding, but then threatened the news outlet who published her accusations so they took it down.
The outcome doesn’t bode well for progressive change in the province, however the Liberals only winning a 27 seats (26 required for a majority) means some open votes could play in our favour. As we have seen over the past four years, progressive movements must remain vigilant as the work is far from being done.
For more reading and analysis: