The provincial election has produced another majority Liberal government, but much has changed.
Premier Stephen McNeil and his other 26 winning MLAs have won another mandate to continue its goals to govern the province in a fiscally responsible way. That is what the majority of those who cast ballots on May 30 have given this government.
Some things are the same as a result of the election, while it has also produced profound change.
The three Progressive Conservatives representing Pictou East, Pictou Centre and Pictou West have been returned. Their election in 2013 came despite trending support for the Liberals. Their election in 2017 came while support grew for the Tories elsewhere in the province.
Jamie Baillie is well-positioned to continue as PC leader of the Official Opposition. He’s young enough to wait four years for another chance to become premier. He has profited from growing pockets of support in Cumberland County, Halifax – and especially Cape Breton where voters bought into how he slammed the Liberals’ performance on health and education issues. Baillie needs to remember at least one thing. He cannot afford to drive any more MLAs away, such as Karen Casey and Chuck Porter who won re-election at the Tories’ expense.
Among party leaders, Gary Burrill of the NDP was the biggest winner. He was never going to regain the riding he once represented and opted for a more winnable one in Clayton Park West. The NDP did not gain many seats and lost a crucial one in Chester-St. Margaret’s, but the legislature will be an exciting place every time he addresses it.
The Liberals remain strong in HRM, South Shore, Eastern Shore and from Hants East to Digby. But they won and lost some seats by the narrowest of margins. Their hold on power is tenuous and it suggests that the PCs might have fared better with a different leader. That’s more than anyone can tell right now.
More than health care or education, one issue emerged during the campaign — how likeable voters consider McNeil. History shows that McNeil’s background in small business is modest compared to the medical, legal and educational resumes of most of Nova Scotia’s premiers in the last 75 years. It shapes his fiscal bent and his plain speaking, but he will be challenged to convey a softer touch while he attempts to fulfill the government’s agenda.
Ultimately, the election’s most worrisome feature was the nearly half of eligible Nova Scotians who did not vote. It should give all of us pause and build anew a way for Nova Scotians to incorporate civic responsibility in their lives. Despite the fact that voting in the 2017 election was never easier, and for those who were unable to get out to vote, arrangements were in place that made it possible for the vote to be brought to them, it did not make a difference in voter turnout.
Being politically aware does not take a lot of time in our daily lives, but it is necessary.