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Jun 09 2009

Blogging the Election, part 2

Here’s part 2 of my Blogging the Election series. Part 1 is here. About time I got around to polishing this up and posting, considering today’s election day! Part 3 is coming tonight, after Jodi and I hit the polls after work. Another long one, with some potentially wacky formatting and far too liberal of use of blockquotes, so join me below the fold.

the platforms

MapleLeafWeb is quickly becoming my favorite resource for local elections. They have a very thorough set of resources here, for both the political history of this area and the parties’ respective platforms. I will quote it at length here, as the bulk of this post is planned to be regarding the blow-by-blow of the mudslinging that’s gone on since the last time I posted. Full political platforms are as follows:

Progressive Conservative Party

In March 2009, for example, they outlined their strategy for dealing with the current economic slowdown in a document entitled Building for Growth: Nova Scotia’s Economic Stimulus Plan. In the plan, the Progressive Conservatives committed to spending $1.9 billion between 2009 and 2012, with the goal of stimulating the economy and creating or maintaining approximately 20,000 jobs. Spending priorities identified included energy conservation, transportation infrastructure, schools and information technology, community services, and tourism, culture and heritage. The Progressive Conservatives also pledged to maintain fiscal stability by continuing to maintain balanced budgets and an affordable provincial debt.

In the early days of the campaign, the party has also emphasized its recent 2009-10 provincial budget (which failed to be approved in the legislature prior to the election call). In its budget, the government estimated a small surplus of $4 million. In addition to the economic stimulus plan highlighted earlier, the Progressive Conservatives committed to spending $155 million as part of a Poverty Reduction Strategy, created to improve the standard of living for those with low incomes. The government highlighted that its plans also include introducing a tuition freeze for university students; shortening waiting times for health care through capital and information technology spending projects; lowering taxes through new tax credit programs; and reducing the corporate tax rate.

Liberal Party

The party and its leader, however, had previously outlined publicly a number of election promises in the media and on their website. Key commitments include:

* Aid to small businesses, including a tax cut from 5 to 1 percent and a micro-lending program to allow better access to credit.
* Building a provincial energy corridor to ensure energy security and stability. This includes building transmission infrastructure to tap into new renewable energy options, such as the Fundy Tidal and Lower Churchill Falls projects.
* Introducing a School Grants Program intended to provide local schools with the flexibility to invest in their own specific requirements.
* Ensuring a family doctor for every Nova Scotia family by designating 20 seats at the Dalhousie Medical School for the next five years for doctors willing to work in under-serviced parts of the province.
* Improving government accountability by introducing fixed sessions of the provincial legislature anda fixed date for the government’s budget; requiring the provincial Auditor General to audit the provincial finances prior to an election; reducing fees for Freedom of Information requests; and creating an All-Party Committee on House of Assembly Reform and Renewal to consult the public and recommend changes to the practices of the provincial legislature.

New Democratic Party

The New Democratic Party has outlined its election platform in a short document entitled Better Deal 2009: The NDP Plan to Make Life Better for Today’s Families. The document outlines seven key commitments:

  • Create the secure jobs Nova Scotia’s economy needs
  • Keep emergency rooms open and reduce health care waits
  • Ensure more young people stay and build a life in Nova Scotia
  • Take the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) off home energy
  • Fix rural roads and keep communities strong
  • Give seniors options to stay in their homes and communities longer
  • Live within the province’s means

In regard to the economy, the party has pledged to stimulate growth in the province by maximizing federal funds for infrastructure programs, and through a number of tax incentives, such as a 10 percent Manufacturing and Processing Investment Tax Credit, a one-year 50 percent HST rebate program for new home construction, and an increase in the Equity Tax Credit to promote investment in communities.

In the area of government finances, the NDP has committed to balancing the provincial budget. In addition, the party promises to undertake an immediate audit to determine the state of provincial finances, and to implementing an expenditure management review with the goal of achieving up to one percent savings in the budget.

In social policy, the party has promised to reduce health care waiting times by hiring more doctors, opening more hospital beds, and setting up ‘Pre-Hab teams’ to reduce waits for surgery. The NDP has also pledged to create 250 new community college seats and introduce tax incentives to keep university and college graduates in Nova Scotia. Other key social initiatives include creating 250 subsidized child care spaces, and introducing initiatives to promote in-home care for seniors.

Green Party
MapleLeafWeb had nothing on the Greens’ platform, but their official page does. Their table of contents sums up their key points of argumentation pretty well:

Strategies 2
Natural Resources Utilization and Protection 2
Community Health and Prosperity 6
Key Issues
Aboriginal Affairs 8
Agriculture 10
Clean Air 13
Climate Change 14
Creativity 16
Education 17
Electoral Reform 19
Energy Security 20
Food Security 23
Fisheries 25
Forestry 26
Health 27
Job Creation 30
Minerals 32
Poverty 34
Water Security 36

The arguments they put forth on each are actually pretty strong, and clearer-eyed than I was expecting. There are of course the standard swipes at rampant capitalism and an underlying focus on sustainability through which lens they view all problems, but I don’t see a problem with it as a political platform. Hopefully they get enough traction and votes that they can increase their funds (making $1.50 per vote in provincial campaign financing funds)

the provincial campaign

Premier Rodney MacDonald has been stepping up the attack ads province-wide throughout this campaign. On my local classic rock station K-Rock, for the first 75% of the election cycle, I heard tons of PC ads against the NDP, their perceived biggest opponent, every one of them an attack ad suggesting the NDP is unfit to lead, a questionable entity in uncertain times, while the PC is by contrast “proven”. Fear vs hope. I have to note how much Canadian conservative politics has taken on the same features as the Republicans since Stephen Harper took office as Prime Minister, and I hope that means they’re destined to meet the same fate of exile in short order. NDP took a different tactic — spending all their advertising money on a big blitz nearer to election day, only putting out counter-ads when the PC claims got too egregious.

I’m especially amused by the line of attack floated by the PC (or read CBC’s coverage) saying that NDP’s plans to add 17 beds to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, for $5 million, is impossible, considering the PC’s own plan for 14 beds (seven of them emergency beds, plus a new wing to put them in, plus three nurses, three attendants, and three paramedics, all full-time) would be $21 million. Never mind that the NDP is looking to add basic beds, not all the bells and whistles of a whole new emergency wing.

And most recently, the NDP received $50,000 from ten unions province-wide — when it was pointed out to them that this may be against political campaign fundraising laws, considering all unions “one entity” for the purpose of fundraising, they returned $45,000 of it immediately, leaving them with the $5000-per-entity limit. The PC and Liberals both tried to make political hay out of this, the PC going so far as to compare the NDP to “a car thief” and stating in ads that they took $45,000 in illegal funds, as though they had kept that money, and as though the law was terribly clear on the “entity” idea to begin with. (As a thought experiment, let’s call all businesses one “entity” — Wal-Mart and your local mom-and-pop shop alike — and see how they should be treated.)

the post-game analysis

One interesting aspect of this election cycle is that it has drastically depressed Tory early polling, which trends suggest a low turnout today as well due to a highly demoralized base, thus a cakewalk NDP victory that the Liberals are trying to buffer. This dovetails with the earlier predictions that the PC has slipped into third place in this heavily change-oriented cycle. It also suggests to me that people are more concerned with the province’s state of affairs than the usual shallow understanding and focus on “taxes and potholes” that the PC has benefited from historically. The Liberals are anxious to pick up as many votes as they can from disillusioned Tory voters in an effort to “team up” and beat the overwhelming goodwill the NDP has generated.

It has also energized the voting public at large, another interesting bullet point in this cycle, especially in contrast with depressed Tory turnout. I’d love to see the final voting numbers compared to last cycle. I know the province’s population hasn’t really grown in the past three years, so any significant uptick in voter turnout will tell you just how high the impetus is to “throw da bums out”, so to speak.

my vote

I’m waffling a bit more than I was at the beginning, but I can tell you I’m one of those Nova Scotians tired of Conservative mudslinging and buck-passing. With the NDP looking to gain at the bare minimum a minority government, I’m theoretically free to vote for whomever I choose, if I’m looking provincially. If only looking locally, I’d be willing to vote for whoever has the best chance of beating an unreasonably popular incumbent.

My vote is secret, and one of the only secrets to which I am absolutely entitled with full force of law. You can guess at my vote, but political hedging is fun!

Get out and vote, people. DO IT.

2 comments

  1. 1
    ReformedYankee

    Put my ballot in today.  Voted Green again, not for the candidate in particular as I have no knowledge of her or her stance, but to increase the funds to a party that I think is looking in the right direction.  Last fall I noticed several signs saying that a vote for Green was a vote for the future and being that I now have offspring who will inherit the political, financial, and environmental debt of my generation, I want to support a party that is looking to change the game….

    We may not win today, but look out 2020, here we come!

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Ten minutes til the polls close, live election coverage on K-Rock or your local radio, or video on http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nsvotes2009/livevideo/ .

    Voting was absurdly quick — we were in and out. Turnout was apparently decent today, though I believe the early voting took care of most of the excited voters.

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