Fall session wraps up for provincial government
If there is one word that describes the fall session of the legislature that concluded this week, it would have to be non-descript.
Despite the fact an election is probably on the horizon next spring, all three parties called the 14-day sitting one of the least partisan in recent memory. The opposition collectively got three bills passed (two for the Conservatives and the firstever bill developed by the Green Party). Most of the government legislation was housekeeping in nature.
There is a possibility the current crop of 27 MLAs has gathered for the last time, but the smart money is on a short spring sitting. The Liberal government will likely bring in a budget with some pre-election goodies and use it as a basis for their campaign; with the economy “on a tear” as Premier Wade MacLauchlan is fond of saying, it is clear the theme of their campaign will be strong fiscal management of the economy.
Despite the Island’s economic success, the Liberals have been slipping in the polls. Waiting until the spring of 2020 (that would be required under the fixed election law since there is a federal vote next October) is a non-starter. All of the parties already have many of their candidates nominated and the premier can claim next spring will mark four years in office - the traditional mandate for an Island government. Waiting longer than that would look like they are hanging on power and “Running Scared” never works well as a campaign theme song.
The opposition Progressive Conservatives are hoping the excitement of their Feb. 9 leadership convention (the third since 2015) will give them momentum heading into the vote.
The new leader will have little time to rest on his or her laurels as they will probably only have a couple of months to recruit candidates and introduce themselves to Islanders.
For Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker and the Green Party, the challenge is to maintain the momentum generated by the election of Hannah Bell and strong performances in the polls for the last several months. That success means both the media and voters will be paying more attention to their policies and platform. Meanwhile, the NDP and leader Joe Byrne have to fight to be recognized, especially during the legislature session when they have no presence inside the rail. Byrne has been working hard, especially on social media, to raise the party profile. Former party leader Dr. Herb Dickieson is making a return as the party’s candidate, running against Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Robert Henderson in O’Leary Inverness, and acting as rural affairs critic.
While things will be winding down on the political front in next week or so for the holidays, the break will be short lived. The five people vying for the Conservative leadership will be back wooing delegates soon after the decorations are put away.
The new year will likely feature both provincial and federal elections so there should be no shortage of activity to keep political pundits and observers busy for the next several months.