COVID-19 and Nova Scotia’s first summer election since 2003: What does it all mean

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For the archetypal clip successful 18 years, Nova Scotia’s provincial election volition beryllium held successful the summer.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin called the predetermination arsenic premier connected Saturday, with a ballot day acceptable for Aug. 17.

Traditionally, elections are held successful the outpouring oregon autumn for a mates of reasons, according to Tom Urbaniak, a governmental subject prof astatine Cape Breton University.

“The outpouring oregon autumn are erstwhile astir voters are paying attention,” helium said successful an interview.

“Winter elections are logistically hard – upwind is precise unpredictable – and summertime elections are not communal due to the fact that voters are distant oregon focused connected different things. It’s not governmental season.”

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While it’s mostly assumed that off-season elections volition person a little elector turnout – and indeed, it whitethorn beryllium “subdued” this clip around, said Urbaniak – helium said determination are different variables that tin counteract that.

“Is determination a galvanizing issue? Are determination arguable moments during the campaign? Have voters travel to similar oregon loathe peculiar enactment leaders?” helium said.

Urbaniak said COVID-19 could beryllium a factor.

“It won’t beryllium a emblematic predetermination campaign,” helium said, noting that governmental leaders won’t beryllium capable to publication ample events and battalion venues with supporters – though helium does expect to spot door-to-door campaigning.

 'Elections Nova Scotia prepares for writ drop' 2:03 Elections Nova Scotia prepares for writ drop

Elections Nova Scotia prepares for writ drop

‘It volition look opportunistic’

Rankin has enjoyed a illustration vantage during the pandemic, becoming a acquainted look to galore Nova Scotians during the province’s regular COVID-19 briefings.

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It’s imaginable that calling a summertime predetermination portion inactive riding that question of precocious visibility could beryllium advantageous for the young premier, who came into powerfulness successful February 2021 pursuing the resignation of erstwhile Liberal premier Stephen McNeil.

“The calculation wrong Liberal ranks is there’s an vantage astatine this peculiar moment,” said Urbaniak.

Rankin had until outpouring of 2022 to telephone the election, truthful Urbaniak said calling it astatine a clip erstwhile less voters volition beryllium engaged volition rise immoderate questions.

“Why not hold until the fall, acknowledging that summertime is not predetermination season, it’s not considered a clip of twelvemonth erstwhile voters’ attentions are preoccupied by governmental contests?” helium said.

“It volition look opportunistic, and Iain Rankin is going to person to explicate that.”

Tom Urbaniak, a governmental  subject   prof  astatine  Cape Breton University, says it’s antithetic   to clasp  an predetermination  successful  the summer.

Tom Urbaniak, a governmental subject prof astatine Cape Breton University, says it’s antithetic to clasp an predetermination successful the summer. Global News

Nova Scotia is the lone state without fixed predetermination dates, a constituent of soreness for the absorption parties which haven’t had arsenic overmuch accidental to prepare.

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“The governing enactment volition ever bask tremendous advantages going into an predetermination run due to the fact that it has the cachet and the authorization that comes with being government,” Urbaniak said, noting the governing Liberals person been making taxpayer-funded, campaign-style spending announcements successful the weeks earlier the writ dropped.

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“Having a fixed time gives the absorption a small much certainty excessively astir what the clip horizons are and however to gait themselves successful nominating candidates and getting immoderate of the logistics ready.”

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However, Urbaniak besides said having a locked-in predetermination day tin mean “dreadful” timing for an election. Had determination been a fixed predetermination day successful the spring, Nova Scotians would person apt been heading to the polls successful the throes of the 3rd question of COVID-19.

“That said, again, Iain Rankin is going to person to reply a fewer questions … [including] wherefore helium couldn’t hold conscionable a small spot longer,” helium said. “Why spell successful the mediate of the summer, not predetermination season?”

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Previous summertime election

Nova Scotia’s past summertime predetermination was held connected Aug. 5, 2003.

Then-incumbent premier John Hamm was capable to support the Progressive Conservatives successful power, but his bulk authorities was reduced to a minority.

Urbaniak remembers it arsenic a “quiet” run and said that going into the election, Hamm’s authorities had received “high marks” for its competency and management.

“So, that is simply a informing to the Liberals, astatine slightest to immoderate extent,” helium said. “That adjacent if you’re getting tenable marks connected absorption connected immoderate of the large files, and adjacent if you deliberation a low-key run is to your advantage, you could inactive spot a diminution successful support.”

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Two of Nova Scotia’s Independent MLAs bespeak connected clip successful bureau arsenic predetermination speculation continues – Jul 2, 2021

Compared to much caller elections, the elector turnout for the 2003 predetermination wasn’t peculiarly low, astatine conscionable implicit 68 per cent.

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However, it was a diminution from the turnout astatine the erstwhile 3 elections, which stood astatine 75.4 per cent successful 1993, 69.5 per cent successful 1998 and 68.1 per cent successful 1999.

Improving elector turnout

Lori Turnbull, a governmental subject prof astatine Dalhousie University, said elector engagement and turnout could beryllium a interest during summertime elections – peculiarly arsenic the state begins to bounce backmost aft COVID-19.

“People are truthful excited to spell bash things due to the fact that they’re yet escaped of COVID-19, due to the fact that they’ve had their 2 vaccines, and truthful they whitethorn conscionable not truly get ace engaged, radical mightiness not program their summertime astir voting,” she said.

“You mightiness not spot radical not arsenic funny successful the campaign, not listening arsenic closely, and past yet not showing up.”

Turnbull said determination is probe to suggest that a little elector turnout tin payment an incumbent, portion different probe suggests it could payment an absorption party. But that each depends connected the circumstances astatine the time, she said.

Political subject prof Lori Turnbull is acrophobic astir debased elector turnout during the election. Global News

Taking enactment of Rankin’s illustration advantage, she said little elector engagement could beryllium an vantage for the governing Liberals, since the existent premier is already successful the spotlight.

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“It could beryllium that a debased elector turnout and a low-key run doesn’t assistance the different parties elevate to the constituent wherever they’re getting arsenic overmuch vulnerability arsenic they would request to beryllium acquainted to voters,” she said.

“But astatine the aforesaid time, you ne'er know, right? A debased elector turnout depends connected which of those voters don’t amusement up.”

Turnbull said debased elector turnouts could person implications for the perceived legitimacy of an election’s result.

She pointed to the information that elector turnout for Nova Scotia elections has been trending downward successful caller years, reaching an all-time debased of little than 54 per cent successful 2017.

“So, we’re not nailing it anyway,” she said. “And if we spot little than that, that’s not comfortable.”

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Turnbull said determination are a fig of ways to amended elector turnout, including offering beforehand polls and improving accessibility to mail-in ballots.

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She added that – contempt COVID-19 throwing things “out of whack” – fixed predetermination dates could assistance enactment parties connected a akin playing field.

“It’s much just to the administrators, it’s much just crossed governmental parties successful the consciousness that premiers person immoderate deterrent against calling an predetermination erstwhile it works for them … because, really, what is the antiauthoritarian worth of the authorities being capable to clip an predetermination unilaterally?” she said.

“(Fixed predetermination dates) are not the extremity of each the problems, but there’s a bully statement for them.”

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