Nova Scotia Election Could Signal Trouble for Provincial Incumbents

Over the course of the pandemic, numerous provincial elections have been held across Canada. New Brunswick and British Columbia both entered snap elections in which the incumbent government won a majority, and others, like Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, held fixed elections that brought the same party back into power. Every election held so far during the pandemic has brought back the incumbent party.

However, things changed in August when ballots were counted in Nova Scotia. To the surprise of the Nova Scotia Liberals, the Progressive Conservatives swept into power with a majority government. This came following a leadership race in the spring for the Liberals that made Iain Rankin the premier. Riding high in the polls and looking for his own mandate, he decided to call a snap election in July, which was held on August 16.

During the election, the Liberals were wedged on two sides. By the Progressive Conservatives, they were pushed on rural health care services. By the NDP, they were pushed on housing and rent control. The Liberals were unable to respond to either issue, and, despite Nova Scotia having fared well during the COVID-19 pandemic, voters changed their votes in many swing ridings. Tim Houston, leader of the Progressive Conservatives and now premier, won 31 seats, the Liberals won 17 seats, and the NDP won six seats. 

Premier Houston has a lot of catching up to do, as the last time the Progressive Conservatives were in power in the province was 2009. His first step will be to name a cabinet, followed by accomplishing some of his campaign promises. On the infrastructure side, they will extend internet to every household, double the budget for the Gravel Road Capital Program and the Rural Impact Mitigation Fund, and conduct an inventory of Nova Scotia Crown land and tender eligible properties for the development of affordable housing units. 

The next most anticipated provincial election in Canada is in Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford will be facing his first electoral test since being elected in 2018. That election is slated for the spring of 2022, and it appears it could be a three-way race between the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP. While that shouldn’t be a pandemic election, the results from Nova Scotia should be a warning sign for incumbent governments across Canada, especially if they look to call a snap election.

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