NEW GLASGOW – The upcoming provincial election could be quite a horse race, says an Antigonish political science professor.
Jim Bickerton, a professor at St. Francis Xavier University, told ngnews Thursday the sitting NDP party is close to the end of its mandate and a provincial election should be called sooner rather than later.
“You can control the situation a little bit better if you go earlier,” he said. “The government has made the usual announcements about spending and program initiatives and the big one was bringing in a balanced budget. They have put all of the pieces into place and if it doesn’t take place fall, it has to go next spring.”
Bickerton says he expects the campaign will be interesting and a possible game changer in the landscape of provincial politics.
He said the Liberal party has had a significant lead in the polls, but this could change with a properly managed campaign by either the NDP or the Progressive Conservative parties.
Bickerton said the large number of undecided voters could swing the vote in favour of a minority government for the NDP.
The incumbent party always has the advantage, he added, but the NDP’s decisions to balance the budget will have an impact on the vote.
“It’s clear the NDP declined in popularity over the course of its mandate,” he said. “They made some tough decisions to balance the budget and rural areas are not particularly happy with the way the province addressed some issues, the south shore in particular.”
Bickerton said NDP victory in 2009 was “unprecedented” because the party won seats in rural areas where its support was never as strong as the Liberals or Tories.
“They won where no one expected them to win and now they are expected to lose some of these seats,” he said. “In my opinion, it will be difficult for them to win another majority, but they have a good opportunity in the campaign to win a minority.”
He said politicians are not always big fans of minority governments because they say they can’t tackle the tough problems, but minority government are usually good for voters because it forces political parties to work together.
“Minority governments force co-operation between the parties and there is not enough of that in Canadian politics,” said Bickerton.
He said both the leaders of the Liberals and Tories have done a good job at keeping their names in the spotlight in the past few years.
“Both have improved as party leaders and that has been reflected in the poll,” he said. “They have gradually built up credibility with the public.”
Bickerton said the Liberals’ lead in the polls could have something to do with the fact that the party hasn’t been in power since the early 1990s whereas the NDP is the sitting government and the Tories held reign in Nova Scotia for many years before last election.
He also noted that although there is vast difference between federal and provincial politics, Justin Trudeau’s recent rise to leadership for the federal Liberal party isn’t hurting the Liberal’s popularity in Nova Scotia.
“An election campaign could change all of this,” he said, adding that despite all the promises and platforms released before and during an election, the voter’s decision usually comes to down to one thing.
“It’s about who you trust,” he said.