In what was the worst kept secret, Nova Scotians are returning to the polls on May 30.
For some, the election means nothing because they have no plan on exercising their democratic vote. If you’re one of these people, there’s likely no point in reading on.
But for those who prefer to keep their finger on the pulse of this election, it’s really shaping up to be an interesting campaign. Over the past several weeks, I’ve had a chance to speak with sources from each of the major parties and at this point, there are few who believe Stephen McNeil won’t be the premier of this province after May 30.
Having said that, what type of government he will have is still very much up for debate. McNeil has left a foul taste in the mouths of many during his first term as premier including nurses, teachers and those in the film industry to name a few. While it’s unlikely the well-publicized battles will knock McNeil from the premier’s seat, it could hurt him in terms of overall seats and that could mean a minority government.
To unseat McNeil, Nova Scotians would have to take a sharp turn from the last election and cast their ballot in favour of either the Progressive Conservative or New Democratic Party in mass numbers. This is the second key thing to watch.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill doesn’t even hold a seat in the legislature at this point and his effort to win the Halifax-Chebucto riding won’t be a cake walk. He would have to knock off Liberal incumbent Joachim Stroink and career election candidate John Wesley Chisholm for the Conservatives.
Burrill has already announced the NDP would run a deficit in the first few years to address the health care system and he’s vowed to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The NDP platform could be enough to capture the attention of voters in Halifax-Chebucto but that’s it. An orange crush in 2017 is highly unlikely.
That leaves Jamie Baillie and the Conservatives as the only real threat to McNeil and his hopes of another majority government. But even Baillie has struggled to make any gains on the Liberals since 2013. Some will argue the numbers show otherwise and his popularity has improved. Others will claim it was the Liberals who actually lost support and by default, it has to land somewhere.
That brings me to the third key thing to watch this election. What if Burrill loses? What if Baillie loses?
If you’re Burrill, leading the third ranked NDP with a few seats, including his own, isn’t ideal but he can make it work. If he doesn’t capture the Halifax-Chebucto riding, I’m not sure how much credibility he brings to the NDP leading them from the gallery of the Legislature.
And then there’s Baillie. For months there’s been speculation some Conservative MLAs have been growing impatient with his leadership. All of this has been denied, of course. But the whispers are there.
There is one key point of interest surrounding Baillie. What if the Liberals only win a minority government? That could be enough for Baillie to hang on as leader of the Conservatives since it’s unlikely we would go any more than two years before another election is called.
He could argue the Conservatives have put a major dent in the Liberal stronghold in this province and in the next election, could unseat them as the governing party. If that were to happen and Baillie actually stayed on as leader, “there would be blood,” says one Conservative source.
No matter how you look at this election, it’s extremely difficult to believe the Liberals won’t maintain the power. However, this is a province that’s produced an ‘orange crush’ and a ‘red tide’ so anything is possible. Should voters decide it’s time for a change, McNeil will, without question, step down as leader of the Liberals and go back to serving solely as the MLA for Annapolis.
There are many people in this province who feel McNeil has done enough to deserve that fate.
The unpredictability of elections is what makes them so attractive. Talking about the leaders only scratches the surface. The battles that are about to take place in the three Colchester County ridings offer up even more intrigue, speculation and excitement!
Let the fun begin.