Is election Liberals to lose?
Clouds are now appearing on the horizon
We are now into the second week of the provincial election and all indications are that the Liberals are riding high in the polls, that the opposition parties have their work cut out for them and that this is Premier Stephen McNeil’s election to lose.
Over the past two years the provincial Liberals have enjoyed stratospheric levels of support in public opinion polling. Just last November, and before the teachers’ work-to-rule job action, a poll by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) showed the Liberals with the support of 56 per cent of decided Nova Scotian voters. Support for the Progressive Conservatives stood at 20 per cent and for the New Democrats, 19 per cent.
A similar poll by CRA this past March had the Liberals at 44 per cent, the Tories at 28 per cent and the New Democrats at 23 per cent. In just three months Liberal support had dropped by 12 percentage points, largely attributable to the teachers’ issue. But even at 44 per cent, such a level of popular support, if replicated on election day, would give the Liberals another comfortable majority government.
So far, so good for the governing Liberals. And the budget the government introduced, just days before the election writs were dropped, was very much a good news election budget. The deficit has been eliminated, the budget is balanced and there is more money for virtually everything and every interest in the province. Millions of dollars more for health care, education, transportation, infrastructure, tourism, arts, culture, economic development, industrial strategies and modest tax cuts to boot for both low-income Nova Scotians and small businesses.
The sun seems to be shining brightly on a Liberal parade to electoral triumph by the end of the month. And the latest poll confirms this storyline. A survey by Mainstreet/iPolitics published on May 4, 2017, shows the Liberals with 42 per cent of decided voters, the Tories holding 29 per cent support and the NDP 25 per cent. Even at 42 per cent, the Liberals would win a majority mandate.
But clouds are now showing on the horizon. In these three polls the trend-line for the Liberals is descending while the opposition parties are gaining. And buried in the Mainstreet/ iPolitics survey are some disquieting numbers for the Liberals out of Metro Halifax.
There, the survey data shows a tightening three-way race with the Liberals in the lead with 28 per cent support, closely followed by the New Democrats at 25 per cent, and the Tories at 22 per cent. So, keep your eyes peeled on Halifax.
Outside of Halifax, the Liberal numbers are stronger, with them having a 13-percentage point lead over the Progressive Conservatives (35 per cent to 22 per cent) and the NDP trailing at 14 per cent.
So, the Liberals are in the lead and if the election were held today they would likely win another majority government.
But Election Day, May 30, is still almost three weeks away and three weeks can be an eternity in politics. Election campaigns do matter and the Liberals are vulnerable on a host of fronts.
They are the incumbent government and therefore they have a record on which they will be judged. They will promise to spend more money on almost everything but if people look at the gaps, holes and weaknesses in policies and programs the Liberals can soon find themselves on the defensive.
Tens of thousands of Nova Scotians have no family doctor; rural Nova Scotia and Cape Breton are facing crises in keeping medical specialists; education policy is in disarray and funding for viable post-secondary institutions and public libraries is deficient. Poverty, income inequality, economic stagnation, population decline, growing social and economic disparity between Metro Halifax and the rest of the province remain chronic problems.
This election is far from over.
“… three weeks can be an eternity in politics.”
David Johnson, Ph.D., teaches political science at Cape Breton University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org