Nova Scotians are heading to the polls on Tuesday, May 30.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil met with Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant at about 1 p.m. on Sunday and requested he dissolve the current House of Assembly. He left the lieutenant-governor's residence in downtown Halifax about 20 minutes later, stopping only to say: "[Grant] said yes."
The 30-day campaign that will result is the minimum allowed under Nova Scotia's election laws.
All three political parties had campaign rallies scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
The election announcement comes just three days after the McNeil government introduced a balanced budget that included:
- A $25.9-million surplus.
- An increase in the basic personal income amount.
- $13 million more for hospital infrastructure.
- $14.5 million to improve rural high-speed internet service.
The Liberals entered the election with 34 seats, while the Progressive Conservatives had 10 and the NDP had five. MLA Andrew Younger sat as an independent, and there was one vacancy created by former NDP MLA Marian Mancini opting not to run.
Leading up to the election call, a flurry of spending announcements across the province fuelled speculation an election was coming. A CBC News analysis of 41 recent commitments showed 70 per cent of those good-news announcements took place in Liberal-held constituencies or were primarily to the benefit of those ridings. Liberals held 67 per cent of the seats in Nova Scotia prior to the election being called.
Union clashes dominated McNeil's tenure as premier
The Liberals' time in office was marked with a number of clashes with organized labour.
In February, the province imposed a contract on teachers after the Nova Scotia Teachers Union rejected three previous tentative agreements. Teachers then staged a one-day strike, the first in the union's 122-year history.
The Liberals also encountered a bumpy ride when they merged nine district health authorities into one, while allowing the IWK Health Centre in Halifax to continue to operate as a separate health entity. The Liberals also consolidated 50 different health union contracts into just four in a sometimes messy and controversial process.
Under McNeil, the province formally apologized in 2014 to former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children, an orphanage where residents were subjected to abuse over a 50-year period, until the 1980s. The province later reached settlements worth $34 million with former residents.
Changes made to Nova Scotia's film tax credit program in 2015 were widely criticized for gutting the province's film industry, resulting in fewer productions being filmed here and forcing people to move away to find work.
NDP launched platform 1 week ago
The NDP was ready for today's election announcement — it launched its platform last Sunday, in which it promised to introduce a $15 per hour minimum wage, free tuition at community college and class-size caps for grades primary to 12.
Leader Gary Burrill criticized the McNeil government's recent willingness to open its pocketbook.
"The McNeil Liberals for over a month have been in full rum and nylons mode, running around the province giving out a half a million dollars every 20 minutes," he said.
This is the first election for Burrill as leader. While he previously served as an MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley beginning in 2009, he lost his seat in the 2013 election. He was elected party leader in 2016 and will be running in Halifax Chebucto.
Tory campaign launch focuses on McNeil
The Progressive Conservatives launched their campaign yesterday. Leader Jamie Baillie focused his efforts on painting himself as different from McNeil.
"[McNeil's] been pulling this province apart and we have the scars to show for it.... This election is about healing the wounds," Baillie said. "You don't turn to the person who made the mess to clean up the mess."
Baillie, a seven-year MLA who is entering his second election campaign as leader, said the PCs would repeal the controversial piece of legislation that imposed a contract on teachers. He also said he would restore vocational training in schools and would ban the use of the phrase "have-not province."
In the coming days, the Tories will make several announcements regarding the economy, said Baillie.
Recent poll suggests Liberal support has slipped
Corporate Research Associates released poll results in mid-March that suggested a significant drop in popular support for the Nova Scotia Liberal Party among decided voters.
According to the poll, conducted between Feb. 2 and March 1, 44 per cent of those asked said they would vote for the Liberals. That was down from 56 per cent in November.
Support for opposition parties came in at:
- Progressive Conservatives: 28 per cent, up from 20 per cent.
- New Democratic Party: 23 per cent, up from 19 per cent.
- Green Party: Five per cent, up from four per cent.