With the governing Liberals expected to call an election after introducing the budget at the end of this month, there is speculation about what will happen when Nova Scotians soon go the polls.
On April 27, the provincial government will introduce a budget that finance minister Randy Delorey recently told a business audience in Halifax will be balanced and could include items like tax cuts, a budget more befitting a Progressive Conservative regime than a moderate-left party, which the Liberals claim to be.
This comes on the heels of the Liberals’ struggles to balance the books with spending cuts in areas like the public sector, decisions which raised the ire of public sector employees and teachers, and which led to their falling numbers in recent public opinion polls.
In the meantime, the opposition PCs under leader Jamie Baillie remain confident in their chances despite the fact his party has rarely registered above 30 per cent in any public opinion poll since he took over the helm and despite the fact that Baillie’s personal popularity has failed to reach acceptable levels, even to the party faithful.
And while the Liberals act like Tories, the PCs have decided to boldly take a page from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s playbook in the last federal election by decrying the Grits’ obsession with fiscal prudency, declaring recently to The Reporter that “I didn’t get into politics to cut things,” vowing to “build the economy, create jobs, build the tax base” so that the election comes down to a choice between Liberal cuts versus Tory growth.
That might very well be a successful strategy that could propel them into power, or at the very least, give them enough seats to push the Grits into minority status, with the PCs holding the balance of power and poised to form the next government.
If this were coming from the New Democrats, it might sound more genuine, and in fact, the NDP under leader Gary Burrill are promising to go further than the Tories, vowing to spend their way out of the economic doldrums, with a particular emphasis on health care, which they correctly argue needs real financial investments to tackle the problems of today and even more so, the emerging problems of coming years.
Beyond health care, the NDP wants to fight inequality among Nova Scotians, by supporting an increase to the minimum wage and more spending in areas like social services that will help the province’s low income population.
Unfortunately, this message has failed to connect with Nova Scotians as the NDP continues to register abysmally-low poll numbers, particularly in regions outside metro Halifax.
But as recent elections nationally, provincially and internationally have demonstrated, public opinion polls are becoming less dependable, and at their best, merely serve as general indicators of where each party stands.
And the numbers are deceiving, especially at this point in the province’s history.
Nova Scotia hasn’t elected successive majority governments since 1988, just before the economy started a tailspin from which it still has not recovered. Not surprisingly, this has led to minority governments, one term governments and the type of political fluidity for which the province was rarely known in the 20th century.
Long gone are days of premiers remaining in power for a decade or more. The days of Robert Stanfield, Gerry Regan and John Buchanan are long gone. The current political system is so unpredictable and so volatile that even relatively popular premiers like John Hamm could not win back-to-back majorities.
This is a time when governments rise to popularity as quickly as they plummet from public favour, and when no support can or should be taken for granted.
The big question is whether the Liberals can go against this tide, and retain a majority, or whether Nova Scotians will continue what has become a tradition of transformation by booting them out and giving the party most far removed chronologically from power a chance to run this province.
It all adds up to a fascinating campaign in which the outcome is as unknowable as the current voting tendencies of Nova Scotians.
Hopefully, voters will show up and make their voices heard in what will undoubtedly be another historic election.