Nova Scotia's mid-July general election date clears House

·3 min read
A sign indicating a returning office is seen in this file photo. Opposition MLAs tried hard to force the Houston government to change the date it chose for Nova Scotia's general elections. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)
A sign indicating a returning office is seen in this file photo. Opposition MLAs tried hard to force the Houston government to change the date it chose for Nova Scotia's general elections. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)

Despite near unanimous criticism from the public during the law-making process and a sustained effort by opposition MLAs to delay its passage, Bill 1 passed third and final reading Friday, making July 15, 2025, the next time Nova Scotians will go to the polls in the province.

The legislation sets election day as the third Tuesday in July every four years, although the government retains the ability to dissolve the House earlier if it provides notice.

Opposition parties spent much of this week and last filibustering the bill, delaying the government's ability to pass it. While there was broad support for a fixed election date, the PCs were not able to garner any support from the opposition side of the House for their decision to hold mid-summer votes.

Members of the NDP and Liberals, as well as people who presented at the legislature's law amendments committee, called for a date in the fall or spring.

Opposition to July vote

Arguments against July included concerns that it suppresses voter turnout because people aren't paying attention, as well as taking away the opportunity for students to learn about elections in class while they're happening.

In his final remarks during third reading debates, NDP Leader Gary Burrill suggested Nova Scotians embarrassed to live in the last province in the country to legislate a fixed election date would be just as uneasy having to justify being the only jurisdiction in Canada to hold a summer vote.

"It will be sad from so many angles if we solve that embarrassment now, only to replace it with another embarrassment," said Burrill. "That we will have to explain to members of the public in years to come that, well, actually, you know, it's true, Nova Scotia is really the only province in all of Canada that holds its elections, as a matter of statute, in the middle of July."

Burrill was one of 12 opposition members who spoke during third reading debate, the last opportunity for members of the legislature to speak on a piece of legislation.

Many other chances to vote, says PC MLA

Brian Wong, minister of advanced education, was one of only three PC members of the House to wade into the debate on Friday. He suggested opposition members who said voters would be more interested in a trip to the beach than the ballot box in mid-July were ignoring the fact that people are able to cast ballots ahead of election day.

"If you want to vote on Tuesdays, may I suggest June 24, 17, 10, 3, or July 8 or July 1st," said Wong. "You can vote any of those Tuesdays.

"As a matter of fact, you can vote just about every day except for Sundays. You can vote anywhere in the province at any returning office, anywhere."

Teachers, particularly those who teach civics, campaigned hard against the mid-July date. They argued it would make it harder to teach students about democracy and difficult to engage them during discussion about the electoral system if campaigns happened outside the school year.

Backbencher takes swipe at Liberals

PC backbencher John White, MLA for Glace Bay-Dominion, made his position clear as a former educator.

"I am one of the teachers that supports July elections, and I want that to be heard very loud and clearly," he said.

White also used the occasion to take a swipe at members of the previous Liberal government who locked horns with teachers and other unionized employees during their time in power.

"You want to talk about engagement? Talk about engagement when you have thousands of teachers marching around this building and you didn't listen to them," said White. "And now here you are listening to them?"

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