Signs of a spring election in Nova Scotia are popping up like the crocuses.

Opposition parties are in full campaign mode, already taking shots at one another. The NDP officially launched its campaign on the weekend, and is taking shots at Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie in a news release, saying he's "desperate" to win.

For Dalhousie sociology professor Howard Ramos, it's a clear attempt by the third party to gain some traction.

“I think that's a bit of a strategy to try and chip away at whatever support the Conservatives have, who are currently ahead of the NDP in polling,” Ramos said.

Ramos believes the election will be called this fall, but either way, he says it's the Liberals' election to lose.

On the unofficial campaign trail Monday, Baillie said the election will be a referendum on Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil's leadership.

“I think people want an alternative that actually brings people together, that actually works with doctors, that works with teachers and nurses to make things better,” Baillie said.

Government will introduce its budget Thursday, but both the premier and the finance minister have stopped short of saying the budget will be debated and passed, leading some to believe the call is coming later this week.

“Whenever the call is, we will make sure to let everyone know,” said Premier McNeil.

The timing itself may become an election issue, if the budget isn't debated.

“It deserves a full examination of all the members of the legislature. We want to know what they're doing with our money,” said Baillie.

“When they bring forward a budget, ought to subject that budget to the scrutiny of the people's representatives,” said NDP leader Gary Burrill.

For now, MLAs will have to stop campaigning, as they return to Province House for the spring session on Tuesday.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.