Nova Scotians at the polls August 17

Nova Scotia’s 41st General Election Campaign is officially underway.

Nova Scotia Liberal Party leader Iain Rankin, who became premier in February, met with the lieutenant governor on Saturday. Arthur LeBlanc to dissolve the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia. Election day will be August 17.

“This province is at a critical juncture and we must continue to make the right decisions for workers, for seniors, for families and for all Nova Scotians,” Rankin told reporters outside the government residence in downtown Halifax.

“This election will be about how best to position the province for a strong economic recovery, a recovery that focuses on investments in infrastructure, green technology and renewable energy. And I could not be more optimistic about the potential of this province. “

Nova Scotia Liberal Party Leader Iain Rankin, left, and his wife, Mary Chisholm, walk to Government House on Saturday morning. (Jean Laroche / CBC)

The announcement comes after weeks of funding announcements across the province, including plans to build hundreds of new long-term care beds and an agreement with the federal government to bring affordable child care to Nova Scotia.

“It’s about time,” Rankin says

Rankin spoke about the fact that the elections will be held during a provincial state of emergency linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nova Scotia has five known active cases as of Saturday and Rankin noted the province was in phase 4 of its plan to reopen.

“It’s about time,” he said. “We need to talk to the province about our ideas and our optimistic vision for the future. I think there are contrasts in what the other parties are proposing.

Speaking at his own campaign launch, NDP Leader Gary Burrill used familiar themes to describe his thoughts on the election, including the need for better support for long-term care, a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, sick pay for everyone, permanent rent control and access to same-day or next-day walk-in mental health care.

“This election is about all of these people and a lot more people, and what is going to actually happen to improve their lives or not, depending on the election result that was announced this morning,” Burrill said. in a neighborhood of Halifax, supported by a group of sympathizers.

It also targets Rankin’s promise to balance the budget within four years, a plan that the budget documents said would result in a $ 209 million reduction in departmental spending next fiscal year.

“We have two roads ahead of us: one to cut, shrink, contract and another to see the needs that have arisen before us over the past eight months and expand by looking to, addressing and enforcing the Government of the People of Nova Scotia to these needs.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill speaks to reporters as his party’s election campaign kicks off on Saturday. (Michael Gorman / CBC)

The NDP plans to release a so-called vision document on Sunday, outlining the party’s 10-year plan for the province. The party promises to release its full four-year encrypted platform by the middle of the campaign. With people being encouraged to vote early, party officials recognize that there is little time to waste in getting their message across.

Prior to the campaign, Rankin’s Liberals held 24 seats in the legislature, Progressive Conservatives 17 seats, and the NDP five seats. There are three independents and two vacancies.

Rankin, who was elected his party leader in February – succeeding retired Stephen McNeil – will look to win the Liberals their third consecutive term in what is the 38-year-old politician’s first campaign as leader.

It will also be the Progressive Conservatives’ first election with Tim Houston as leader, while Burrill leads the NDP in a campaign for the second time.

Houston and his party are expected to launch their own campaign at 2 p.m. A Liberal event is also scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET. All campaign launches take place in Halifax.

New seats, lots of retirements

Regardless of the outcome, the makeup of Province House after the vote will be different, given the return of four seats for the so-called protected districts of Argyle, Clare, Preston and Richmond, and the creation of new seats to reflect population growth. and redistribution in certain areas. In 2017, voters elected 51 deputies. He will be 55 this time.

The number of retirements of former MPs in the run-up to this vote is also remarkable. Thirteen people do not renew their offer, including 11 Liberals, one New Democrat and one independent.

Lori Turnbull, associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University and director of the school of public administration, said some of those seats will naturally go to the party that holds them, but others may now be on the line.

Left to right: Leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, Iain Rankin, Leader of the Nova Scotia NDP, Gary Burrill, and Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, Tim Houston. (The Canadian Press)

“The fact that all of these people – including a lot of ministers – a lot of these sure things are being left out, I think, gives Rankin an opportunity to put his own stamp on the party, to recruit his own candidates who are loyal to him and not don’t see it as just a continuation of the McNeil government, ”Turnbull said.

“But also, it’s a lot of work for the party. It’s a lot of recruiting candidates, it’s a lot of training people, a lot of upgrading. I think it’s possible that we see quite a bit. of changes. “

Challenges and opportunities for all parties

Holding an election this summer and in the context of COVID-19 will be a challenge for all parties, said Cape Breton University political scientist Tom Urbaniak. It won’t be a traditional campaign in the sense that there won’t be big gatherings and opportunities to bring a lot of people together, which means it could be a quiet affair.

The Liberals might see this as an advantage, given that nearly the entire political profile of the province has fallen on Rankin via the COVID-19 briefings. But Urbaniak offers a little caution to this theory by pointing to 2003, the last election of the summer in Nova Scotia.

“It seemed like a somewhat sleepy campaign. There were no galvanizing issues in this particular election, and yet the votes shifted. Voters’ intentions shifted and John Hamm came out of this election with a minority.”

The campaign may not be long, but Urbaniak believes there is still enough time, combined with Rankin’s limited experience as a leader, for Houston and Burrill to potentially gain traction.

Concerns over voter turnout

With no galvanizing issue ahead of this campaign, Urbaniak expects the NDP and Conservatives to target areas where they perceive Rankin and the Liberals to be weak, including long-term care, health care, housing and poverty.

Turnout in the 2017 general election hit an all-time low of 53% and Turnbull fears the factors at play may lead to an even lower turnout this time around.

“I think this campaign will suffer from its momentum,” she said.

“People are checked with the summer. We can finally get things done. Asking people to look to provincial politics for a while is probably – not everyone will.”

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