Halifax — The two-week-long election campaign in Nova Scotia may not be garnering much national attention, but federal liberals are certainly watching the momentum of this race very closely.
While Justin Trudeau’s liberals are set to ask Canadians for a third term — like their Nova Scotian cousins — the federal party is certainly trying to understand how voters are responding, as well. approach may be. To be the first national “epidemic” survey, said Tom Urbaniac, a professor of political science at the University of Cape Breton.
“The weak performance of the Liberals in Nova Scotia will be of little concern to the Federal Liberals,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
The Nova Scotia Liberals, led by Ian Rankin, 38, Canada’s youngest prime minister, have made it clear that their campaign is based on a sense of optimism as the pandemic appears to be ending. “The stake in this election is recovery” in Nova Scotia, he said during a televised leaders’ debate last week. This “renewal” approach will likely be emulated by federal liberals, now that most provinces are easing their sanitation measures and reopening their economies.
But the Nova Scotia Liberal Party is not the “junior version” of the Federalist Party. In contrast to the “grand liberal” approach of Justin Trudeau’s liberals, who promised more than $100 billion in new spending in his April budget, provincial liberals are promising austerity in public finances. Eventually, former Liberal Premier Stephen McNeill won a two-majority by preaching budget restraint and presenting four consecutive balanced budgets.
Mr Rankin, a former company executive, has made it clear that he will not go down this route. During the leaders’ debate last week, he rebuked his rival Tim Houston, a progressive conservative, for pledging to provide 2,500 new long-term care beds.
To differentiate themselves from these decidedly centre-right liberals, the Conservatives worked a bit to the left, focusing their campaign on health care reform – an additional $430 million annually. And Mr. Houston was keen to distance his party from the Federalist Conservatives led by Erin O’Toole. In March, when members of the National Party rejected a proposal that said “climate change is real”, Mr. Houston dropped the pose “wasn’t very helpful.”
As for the New Democrats, led by United Church pastor Gary Burrill, they have shied away from centrist politics, which first brought the party to power in Nova Scotia in 2009 with Darrell Dexter. Instead, they are campaigning on a more classic progressive platform that promises, for example, rent controls, a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and 10 days of paid sick leave for all workers.
The Green Party, which has virtually no history in Nova Scotia, is led by interim leader Jessica Alexander. The party does not field candidates in all constituencies.
The Liberals entered their fifth year in office last May; After the resignation of several deputies, they are now in a minority in the House. Upon disbanding, they held 24 of the 51 seats, followed by the Progressive Conservatives with 17 and the New Democrats with five. There were three independent MPs and two vacant posts.
According to Professor Urbaniac, the Liberals’ decision to keep the Legislature closed for more than a year limited the media presence of their opponents. In contrast, Mr Rankin, a new leader elected to lead the Liberals in February, has received widespread coverage by attending frequent press briefings on COVID-19. These appearances have also highlighted the government’s largely successful efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the province. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been fewer than 6,000 cases and 93 deaths.
“Liberals know they should extrapolate from this management of the pandemic to economic recovery – they should make this link,” Professor Urbaniac said.
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