Another spending announcement raises expectations of N.S. provincial election
SYDNEY, N.S. -- It was another day and another spending stop for Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin.
On Monday, the Nova Scotia Liberals announced the province would spend $1 million – along with a $1.1 million federal investment – for a new facility for adults with diverse abilities in New Minas, N.S.
Monday's announcement came after a busy weekend of spending announcements in Cape Breton. Some campaign-style ads have been appearing on social media, but the Premier still denies that a provincial election is looming.
"I'm not thinking about an election today," Rankin told reporters after the New Minas announcement. "This is a really positive investment that I'm thinking about, and I'm really happy to be part of this great day for the Valley."
Nova Scotia's opposition parties were quick to react.
"Well there's no question that this is all in the vein of pre-election spending," NDP leader Gary Burrill told CTV Atlantic.
Burrill says he feels it's time for the premier to be up front about whether he's calling an election. And, if there is one, he says he's ready to hit the campaign trail.
"Oh certainly," Burrill said. "We've been in campaign mode for some time. We have 38 candidates ready to go. The remaining candidates will be in place very soon."
Progressive Conservative party leader Tim Houston says the writ shouldn't be dropped until COVID-19 is over in Nova Scotia, and the state of emergency is lifted. "We're last in the country in second-dose vaccines," the leader of the official Opposition told CTV Atlantic.
Houston went on to say he feels the province should have fixed election dates.
"I think we're the only province that doesn't have fixed election dates. We should have them, but in the absence of fixed election dates, the premier will just call when he's ready, so that means the opposition parties have an obligation to be ready."
Cape Breton University political scientist Tom Urbaniak says he thinks an election call is coming.
"Iain Rankin is hearing from a lot of his top advisors that sooner is better than later," he told CTV Atlantic.
Urbaniak says the Rankin Liberals may feel they have an advantage now that they wouldn't have later, largely because of the premier's public profile during the pandemic. But, he says, that kind of political strategy could be risky.
"To go into an election campaign before the finish line is reached, could smack of opportunism, and, historically, there are some examples of voters punishing opportunism," Urbaniak says.
Back in New Minas, the premier pointed to recent low COVID-19 case numbers and lifting of restrictions as driving forces behind the latest spending announcements. "The shutdown's over. Now it's time to safely reopen and start to invest in communities and that's what I've been doing since Day One," said Rankin near the conclusion of his remarks.
Meanwhile, Urbaniak predicts that If COVID-19 conditions remain favourable in the province – the writ could be dropped in the near future.