Election race hitting stride

Pictou-Advocate-opinion

A fever has beset politics in Nova Scotia, and it’s not spring fever.

It’s just a matter of time before the Liberal government led by Premier Stephen McNeil calls an election for some time in late May. All the government’s spending announcements, and how the opposition feels the need to get ready for a spring campaign, have raised the temperature.

Memories of provincial politics in 2003 surface at a time like this. When former premier John Hamm was asked in the heat of election speculation then when the writ would be dropped, he said, “Soon.”

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Sooner or later we were all right, and so it goes this time.

Convention tells us that a majority government like this one will wage an election campaign on ground of its choosing. The prevailing trends suggest the government wants to go to the polls now, rather than during the summer or fall or next spring. Those are the options.

The governing Liberals have generally polled well both before and after the party was elected in 2013. They were the clear option for those voters who reversed their decision to vote for change and allow the NDP to form government in 2009.

We are still feeling the effects of some of the NDP’s decisions. We learned the hard way that it is more difficult and more expensive to halt a ferry service and then try to restore it.

Collective agreements the NDP struck with unionized workers in the province gave the Liberals who succeeded them in government opportunity to seek less generous terms. The Liberals have suffered a bit in the polls over their handling of the recent teachers’ dispute, but the government is not without its supporters on this file as well.

The NDP also gambled on a new function for the former TrentonWorks railcar facility. Rumours persist that the government will announce another buyer with another use for the place, but that’s all they are, rumours. So far.

The Liberals have 34 seats in the Legislature. They can afford to lose eight of them and still retain a majority, and it is hard to say where they would find support these days to run a minority government.

The John Hamm-led Progressive Conservatives used their support for the foundering Liberal government in the late 1990s as a springboard to office.

The NDP supported the Tories for three years before being elected.

The Liberals are positioned to win another, perhaps reduced, majority mandate because both opposition parties have so few seats now. The NDP could win back lost seats, especially around the Halifax area, and hold the balance of power. It is not certain how much more it could grow.

The Tories could retain all three Pictou County seats. Where else it can actually grow is also uncertain.

First things come first, and that means an election-worthy budget to introduce. Soon.