Provincial election by the numbers

With the provincial election almost over, anticipation is running high as to what will happen on May 30.

Without the ability to predict the results, especially considering this province’s tumultuous recent history, reviewing provincial and local results from the 2006, 2009 and 2013 elections – courtesy Elections Nova Scotia – might shed some light.

In 2006, the Progressive Conservatives were attempting to maintain their hold on government, the New Democrats were on the rise and the Liberals were in the political wilderness. In the end, the PCs formed a minority government.

By 2009, the situation had changed dramatically, with the NDP as the favourites, the Liberals enjoying improved political fortunes and the PCs falling rapidly from favour. This concluded with Nova Scotia’s first ever New Democratic government.

Then in 2013, it was the Liberals who were the favourites, the NDP was rapidly losing support and the Tories were scrambling to gain political support.

After the votes were tabulated four years ago, Stephen McNeil’s Liberals held 33 seats with 45.71 per cent of the vote, up by 18.51 per cent from the previous election. The biggest loss was suffered by the NDP who fell to seven seats with 26.84 per cent of the vote, a drop of 18.4 per cent. Meanwhile, Jamie Baillie’s Tories came away with 11 seats for 26.31 per cent of the vote, a gain of 1.71 per cent.

But this time around, the results could be different, according to public opinion polls and information on the ground. It is expected the Grits will lose seats, as well as their percentage of the vote. It is also possible that the PCs will increase its share of the vote, and seat totals., while the numbers for the NDP might not change much at all.

By how much is the question which will define the election. Can the Liberals hold on to power, as well as their majority, or will Nova Scotians continue the recent tradition of turfing governments in favour of the party the furthest removed chronologically from power, the Tories?

Further muddying up the waters of prediction is the fact that Nova Scotia has not elected back-to-back majority governments since 1988.

To get past the murkiness of recent election results, reviewing the figures from the four Strait area ridings can provide insight.

Aside from the former riding of Richmond – now Cape Breton-Richmond – as well as the riding of Inverness, both the riding of Antigonish and the electoral districts encompassing Guysborough County have rightly earned the reputation as political bell-weathers.

In 2006, the PCs took both Antigonish and Guysborough-Sheet Harbour and formed the government. Three years later in two post-election by-elections, the NDP won Guysborough-Sheet Harbour and Antigonish and added these ridings to Nova Scotia’s first ever NDP administration. Then in 2013, Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie went Liberal, as did Antigonish, and the Grits rose to power.

It is not a stretch to assert that those ridings could serve as strong indicators of what will take place in the rest of the province.

Perhaps that is why all three major party leaders have spent a lot of time in the Strait area, and perhaps why on election night, many Nova Scotians will be watching those two ridings.

It all promises to be an exciting night; hopefully Strait area residents will turn out to vote and turn to The Reporter to see what happened.