HALIFAX — A look at some of the major issues in Nova Scotia's election campaign:
Balanced Books: The Liberals will portray themselves as good fiscal managers, having balanced the books in the last two years of their mandate and at a time when some governments in Atlantic Canada are running massive deficits. The Progressive Conservatives will counter that the government has done little to grow the economy by way of tax cuts for businesses. The NDP will maintain that more spending is needed in health care and community services.
Labour Relations: The Liberals have gained a reputation as hard-liners when it comes to dealing with public sector unions. The election comes on the heels of a contentious dispute with 9,000 teachers that saw the government impose a contract after the union rejected three tentative deals. There is still no deal with the civil service or with several health-care units. Unions will also point to the unproclaimed Bill 148, which could be used to impose settlements and restrict arbitrated settlements.
Education: Some blowback from the teachers' contract dispute will also be felt as the Liberals move to address classroom working conditions and to address the highly charged issue of classroom inclusion. The Liberals will defend their record, saying they have fulfilled promises to restore an increased level of funding for the system to address such things as classroom caps and revamping the curriculum.
Health: Both the Tories and the NDP will hammer hard on an unfulfilled Liberal promise from the 2013 election of a family doctor for every Nova Scotian. Government figures released in March indicated just over 25,000 people were on the wait list for access to a family doctor or a nurse practitioner, although figures released by Statistics Canada said 11.3 per cent of the population, or just over 100,000 people, did not have access to a health-care provider. The Liberals will counter that another kept promise to merge health authorities has resulted in a more efficient health system. Another contentious issue to be raised will be the government's abrupt shelving of a plan that would have tripled pharmacare premiums for some seniors.
Economy and Jobs: Both the Tories and the NDP will point to a net loss of jobs over the government's mandate as proof the Liberals had no plan for the sputtering economy. The Liberals will point to gains in immigration and to programs aimed at retaining university- and college-educated workers in the professions and trades as proof of some progress in a province facing demographic challenges.
Arts and Culture: The Liberals' move to axe the province's lucrative film tax credit early in its mandate could likely have a lingering effect in the campaign, particularly in some Halifax ridings.
Yarmouth Ferry: Although all three parties support the Yarmouth to Portland, Maine, ferry, the level of taxpayer funding will be raised by the opposition. The Liberals will point to an upswing in the tourism sector as proof the ferry is a much needed economic engine in southwestern Nova Scotia.
The Canadian Press