Blogging the election, part 1


I’m going to try something I haven’t ever done before, so bear with me while I try to put together as comprehensive an article as I can manage on the NS provincial election and info about my current riding. In order to make this a little more feasible for me, as this one already grew mammoth and it’s just covering the basics, I’m going to split this up into parts. Battle cries are for when you’re about to do something really stupid, so with that in mind: “FOR SCIENCE!!!”

the history

The last election was in 2006, and the results for my riding, Kings South, were as follows. Party names are presented in their representative colors, for those of you that aren’t in the know about Canadian politics. I know I’ve gained at least one reader from outside the Great White North, and you’re probably going to find the colors to be counterintuitive. For what it’s worth, PC is right-wing, Liberal = centrists, NDP is leftist, and Green of course has their hearts in the right place for the environment but usually get as many votes as the Marijuana Party.

Candidate Party Vote count Vote share Elected
David Morse PC 3,788 42.37% X
David Mangle NDP 3,130 35.01%
Ray Savage LIB 1,797 20.1%
Steve McGowan GRN 226 2.53%

David Morse, the incumbent, has been in office since 1999 when he ousted Liberal Robbie Harrison by a margin of about 650 votes, when only a year prior, Harrison had beaten Morse by about 600 votes — convincing 600 voters to switch from Liberal to PC in one year is no small matter. What the mood was like then, I’m not sure — I’d have to defer to people who were around at the time. Luckily I have a few regular readers that were in the area around that time frame, so kindly speak up!

After the Sponsorship Scandal, the Federal Liberals suffered a drubbing in 2004, and a lot of that bled over into NS’ politics. Where the Liberals were once powerful, they are now the distant-third party — despite the Member of Parliament being Scott Brison, a Liberal who seems to have wide appeal across party lines.

Since the 2006 election, the PC party lost two seats during the election proper, and ousted Ernie Fage (now identified as independent) after he was involved in a hit-and-run. They’re hoping to stem this downward trend in this election, however given the reason the election was called is that the PC party were trying to play fast and loose with the rules, it’s not looking promising for them presently. The NDP and Liberals had no interest in a procedural motion that turned into a confidence motion, where the PC were unable to balance the provincial budget without first changing the Provincial Finance Act which mandates debt repayment, redirecting funds legally required to be used in paying down outstanding loans, a change without which their budget would actually leave a $260-million shortfall, but due to the change would still have counted as a balanced budget. Additionally, 1.4 billion would have been added to our outstanding debt to bring the total to $13.7bil after three years. If you’re adding debt, is your budget balanced? Common sense says no. The PC party’s propaganda says hell yes.

the lineup

Here’s what our current election lineup looks like, names linked to the most official webpage I can find for each candidate:

Candidate Party Incumbent
David Morse PC X
Ramona Jennex NDP
Paula Kinley Howatt LIB
Steve McGowan GRN

David Morse

As incumbent, David Morse of the Oxymoron Party — oops, sorry, I mean Progressive Conservative Party (being leftist means I’m prejudiced, granted, but the party’s name invites such slips!) — represents your choice on the right side of the political spectrum. I have access to a great deal more information about him than the other candidates, as he is a quantitatively better known entity.

Before politics, he was a life and disability insurance salesman; and served as city councillor for New Minas for three years before hitting the “big time” (said with full knowledge of the irony of that statement). Premier MacDonald replaced the last Environment Minister (Mark Parent, the PC incumbent from the riding of Kings North) with Morse, who had previously already served a brief term as Environment Minister, and strangely, the only contemporary news article about it I could find on the intertubes (coming from alt publication The Coast) pines for the glory days of Mark Parent. He is not well loved amongst his Tory bretheren however, and rumor has it that he’ll be making a run at Scott Brison in the Federal election rather soon, leaving our riding without an MLA should we vote him in again. In the interest of full disclosure, I went to university with his son, and despite the fact that he and I dislike one another, not to put too fine a point on it, I will consider Morse’s political platform as impartially as possible despite any prejudices that I might have — at least, once I find out what it is.

Morse currently serves as Minister of Environment, Minister Responsible for Emergency Management and Minister Responsible for Military Relations. The official PC site for his candidacy seems devoid of information regarding his current platform, and in fact the entire PC site news feed is dedicated to mudslinging at the NDP. What’s troubling is that there’s precious little space devoted to what exactly they plan on doing, touting only the achievements they’ve made, e.g. allocating $300 million more on highway funding than the 1999 budget under the previous government — shovel-ready jobs as part of a stimulus package, which I happen to agree with; while simultaneously breaking the province’s budget by not obtaining the money to actually pay for these achievements like us “tax and spend” leftists (read as: obtain money before spending it, crazy, I know) tend toward doing, then trying to rewrite the debt repayment rules to cover for this fact. This of course is in direct violation of one of their own mission statements on responsibility:

Responsibility – defining good government as one that lives within its means and whose leaders spend a tax dollar as if it were their own

While I can’t find anything about his current voting record online presently, his office is on the corner near home, so I hope to stop in and pick up their propaganda sometime soon. I’ll also ask if they have a copy of Morse’s voting record handy, given he’s the incumbent — hopefully so, though I wouldn’t be horribly surprised if that isn’t kept handy.

Ramona Jennex

The New Democratic Party‘s representative for the area is Ramona Jennex, who until very recently had a Wikipedia article dedicated to her written much like an advertisement, it being deleted as she is not yet noteworthy until such time that she actually wins an election. Again, in the interest of full disclosure, she was a primary school teacher of Jodi’s.

Jennex presents herself in a pretty standard manner for the NDP — member of tons of community outreach and equality groups, 25 year NDP veteran, dedicated to social justice, etc. Having studied for a year at the Baptist Leadership Training school and being an active participant in Sunday School (as a music director and as part of the Honour Choir) suggests that she has the churchy credentials to win votes around here, and dovetails with Jodi mentioning once that she got this feeling of “churchiness” from her. (How fair an assessment that is, neither of us knows.)

I like that she’s done as much volunteer and community service programs as she has, but I’m not sure they’ve prepared her for life as a politician. And of course, not knowing how deep those churchy behaviours run, I have to wonder whether they are because she feels she has to volunteer to “save her soul”, or the more cynical reason of padding her resume for her political run. I also have misgivings about voting for anyone that might honestly and earnestly believe her religious texts trump science (sorry ReformedYankee, it does make a difference to me whether a politician believes in science, because politicians set the laws as to what science gets used and what gets ignored) — so the fact that I don’t actually know her position, and without meeting her I’m not likely to, helps assuage that fear somewhat. If I’m going to vote for her, I’d rather be ignorant of that fact so that I can feel betrayed later if she stabs science in the back. Not that I think a freshman MLA for our district would have a particularly big role in science, but if she got on some board or another, I hope she errs on the side of reality.

Paula Kinley Howatt

Paula Kinley Howatt of the Liberal Party is the only candidate of the four that has delivered any sort of campaign propaganda to us as yet, putting a two-sided color leaflet in our gate signed “sorry I missed you, Paula”. She’s apparently an associate at a law office in Wolfville, having practiced law for 29 years, and has the backing of our Liberal MP Scott Brison.

Howatt’s political platform according to the leaflet is one of responsible government, education, and the local economy, but this seems rather standard fare. The rest of the leaflet is comprised of a color photo and her name. Having evidently grown up on a family farm, she can claim a populist, agriculturally savvy background, and the pictures on her website and pamphlet show she’s definitely playing that card. Like Jennex, she’s apparently served on a number of boards, including the Valley Hospice Foundation and the board of directors for Landmark East School.

The only other random bits of information I know about her is that she did a wave-at-cars stop at the Superstore a short while ago, and according to Andy, she’s short. I’m hoping to rectify this shortfall as soon as I can get to Wolfville to visit her office and pick up a bit heavier reading material than she graciously provided.

Brendan MacNeill

Before beginning the research on this topic, Brendan MacNeil of the Green Party was a wholly unknown entity to me — I was even surprised to learn that the Greens were running a candidate to begin with. He’s apparently a student in Wolfville according to his website bio. That he is presently the Deputy Leader of the party is a surprise, considering I’ve seen no signs, heard no radio ads, and don’t know his platform or background at all outside of what I’ve read on the Green Party website and the usual expectations of Green candidates (e.g., environment concerns, organic farming, etc.). I have not seen a single sign out, but I am fairly certain he is indeed running for our riding, based on his official blurb on the Green Party’s site. I guess we’ll only really know once I see the ballots.

Frankly, if the Green Party is to ever become a viable political force that wins seats, they’ll have to start raising, then spending, money, so they can raise awareness, and get invited to debates now and then. It’s a sin and a shame that you have to pay to play in this capitalist society, but the alternative, working within the confines of another political party (e.g. joining with the NDP), is apparently too unpalatable for the Greens. To be perfectly fair, you can’t run on your party’s name alone if you’re the fourth-place party, so you do have to make some sort of investment into it before you can drag yourself into the arena.

the stakes

The Nova Scotia Legislature is presently a minority PC government, with the following breakdown:

Party Seats Leader
PC 21 Rodney MacDonald (premier)
NDP 20 Darrell Dexter
LIB 8 Stephen MacNeil
GRN 0 Ryan Watson
IND 1 (Independent)

Flip one seat from PC to NDP, all else being equal, and you have a minority NDP government — the first NDP government since they had Ontario and cocked it up back in the 80s. It’s no wonder Rodney MacDonald is on the attack so hard, with mudslinging ads on every radio station from here to Halifax, considering the provincial sentiment regarding his current rule. Their hold on NS is hanging by a thread.

my prediction

As unfortunate as this is, my backwater riding may end up keeping Morse, though I’ve got my fingers crossed that this guy is right and Jennex wins. Though Morse would be a huge mistake to elect, he’s got the bully pulpit and he’s got probably all the (scattered few) rich folk and a large swath of the (many) uneducated/poor that live around here, and the power of incumbency is difficult to counter unless you really, REALLY fuck up. Ramona’s got more lawn signs than I was expecting, and it’s looking like public sentiment province-wide is trending NDP, so despite my reservations about her, I’m probably going to vote for her; you know, give her a chance. Otherwise I would probably vote Liberal, if I maybe knew more about the Liberal candidate, and if I wasn’t pretty damn sure she isn’t going to get more than ~10-15% of the vote. If Morse vs Jennex turns into a close fight, I’d rather throw in with Jennex just to throw one more haymaker at the PC.

Part 2 will probably either involve visits to all four offices to pick up propaganda and suss out what I can about their platforms, describe the province-wide campaigning including the all-attack-radio mudslinging done by the PC presently, or if I can’t get around to doing either or both of these, will be voting day itself. And the last part, whether that’s part 3, 4 or 5, will be announcing the winner for my riding. As though if you were interested, you couldn’t get it in a more timely fashion.

Comments

  1. says

    Though Morse would be a huge mistake to elect, he’s got the bully pulpit and he’s got probably all the (scattered few) rich folk and a large swath of the (many) uneducated/poor that live around here, and the power of incumbency is difficult to counter unless you really, REALLY fuck up.

    You just hit it on the head right there. In small butt-fuck centers like this, it’s almost impossible for the “in” guy to become the “out” guy. Specially considering how this riding means diddly squat in the grand scheme of things.
    And the only way in my opinion for someone around here, or any other small time riding, to lose their incumbency is for them to become a cabinet minister and make some profound mistake, or do something extremly stupid in public. As long as they lay low, stay quiet and stay squeaky clean, then their ticket is punched for the long haul.

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