Category: Nova Scotia Election

Counterfactual election results

How close did the NDP come to losing everything? Annihilation was just 2,087 votes away:

Wilson +86
DPR +148
Corbett +158
Macdonald +276
Belliveau +363
Zann +483
Gosse +573


How close did they come to forming the Official Opposition with 15 seats? It was just 2,104 votes beyond their grasp:

Dexter -21
Morton -32
Kent -143
Whynott -204
Jennex -371
Birdsall -387
Parker -438
Boudreau -508


Elections NS reports a (preliminary) total of 414,880 valid votes cast in the election.

How Frank Corbett… etc. [update & correction]

[Update and correction] I have taken down my post analyzing Frank Corbett’s near defeat in Cape Breton Centre, because I had the turnout percentage in his riding wrong. Since this was the key data point on which my analysis hinged, it no longer holds up.

I am on the road all day today, but I will have a second look at the numbers first chance I get. If anything useful turns up, I will put up an amended post. Apologies to Frank and to the electors of Cape Breton Centre for my error, and many thanks to Contrarian reader Rob Spencer for pointing it out.

Losers & winners

Nova Scotians tune in on election night to learn two things: Who won, and who are the sore losers. Darrell Dexter was a smart loser, delivering the best speech of the night, a gracious amalgam of congratulations to the winners, and thanks and condolences for his followers, upbeat but laced with sadness he could not hide.

Perhaps the worst thing about the crushing defeat meted out to the NDP is the suboptimal quality of the survivors.

  • I heard both both N-Dips and Tories Tuesday night predict Sterling Belliveau will bolt to the Liberals who, if they are smart, will not take him.
  • DPR, the minister who stood by while her department nearly destroyed Cape Breton’s venerable Talbot House Recovery Centre, snuck through in a three-way race with just 35.3 percent of the vote, two percent more than the theoretical minimum. As the member who needed more babysitting than any other cabinet minister, mark her down as a liability for probable interim leader Maureen MacDonald.
  • By standing the gaff, Gordie Gosse and Lenore Zann (that’s Zann, Paul, not Zahn) win fresh respect as gifted politicians. Still, they might not be your first choice as  lieutenants to rebuild a party.
  • Frank Corbett, having maxed out his pensions, will lose money for every day he hangs in the back benches, a location that will hold little charm for him. Under pressure to stay until the Liberal honeymoon eases, Nanky will be eyeing the exits. Cape Breton Centre will be a hard seat for the NDP to hold in a by-election.

Jamie Baillie succeeded in restoring the party base, enabling him to address the province last night as a winner, albeit one with only 11 seats. He carried out this role with appropriate enthusiasm, but spoke far too long. Viewers want a spirited but quick thank-you wave from the second-place finisher, not a detailed policy address.

Still, it was tacky for Premier-designate Stephen McNeil to start his victory lap while the Opposition Leader was still speaking — a possible sign that for all his promises of a respectful demeanour, the new premier won’t be gentle in the corners.

McNeil has a tough job ahead, not least because of populist policy positions that will serve the province and his government poorly should he have the ill-judgment to implement them. He would do well to cast a backward eye at the lessons of humility so harshly meted out to his predecessor tonight.

How I voted… and voted… and voted

It all began with this:


Then this and this in rapid succession:



One smart-ass tweeter caught the Elections NS spirit:


The results from Needham:


Not all ballot makers are created equal:



Here’s a spelling-challenged ballot forger:


Ballot-making as political speech:


This guy voted three times:




I don’t know. Those Xs look suspiciously familiar.

Feel free to send us your proof of voting facsimile.


Parker Donham, election outlaw


You may have heard Elections Nova Scotia’s allegation that I violated the province’s election act Saturday. I don’t believe I did,  but however the controversy turns out, you may want to know how I got myself in this putative pickle.

On Saturday, I drove to Halifax, where I will do election night commentary for CTV. I had misread the yellow election card that came in the mail, and mistakenly thought I could vote Saturday at any returning office. Turns out that option expired last Thursday.

At the Blues Mills polling station, the helpful returning officer informed me the only two places I could vote that day were the advance poll at Geroge’s River and the returning office in Alder Point. The closer of the two, George’s River, was 104 kms back in the direction from whence I had come. This would add 2-1/2 hours to what should have been a 3-hour drive to Halifax. I considered skipping the vote altogether, but as it happens, I have an unusually keen interest in the outcome of the election in Victoria-The Lakes.

Keith_BainI have known MLA Keith Bain for 40 years. I believe he preceded me as president of the Boularderie Home and School Assoc. For many years, he was Chief of the Big Bras d’Or Fire Dept. in which capacity he helped my neighbours set up the Ross Ferry Volunteer Fire Dept. He served several terms on the Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board. He was the storekeeper in a one-store village, its own form of community service.

I cannot recall an important community meeting in the last 40 years at which Keith was not present and making a positive contribution. Never unpleasantly partisan, always trying to make things better for his community. Last year, he and Liberal Kelly Regan were the MLAs who most consistently kept the heat on Denise Peterson-Rafuse over Talbot House. In short, a decent man with an impeccable record of community service.

Running against him is Pam Eyking,* who has no comparable record of community service and whom I have never seen at a public meeting. Absent that fact she is married to Liberal MP Mark Eyking, there is no possibility she would be the nominee. I like Mark, and I have voted for him more than once, but I find Pam’s decision to run for the Liberals opportunistic and unbecoming.

Mark.PamA Liberal landslide could possibly sweep Pam into office. That’s the thing about landslides. They take out a lot of good people, along with the unpopular government that is their target.

As I sped through Iron Mines, Iona, Christmas Island, and Beaver Cove, I was annoyed at myself for not voting earlier, and annoyed at Pam for getting me riled up enough to drive 100 km out of my way.

“Why am I going to all this trouble,” I asked myself. “Because I want to be able to tell people I voted for Keith.”

As I approached George’s River, that idea morphed into a plan to show people I voted for Keith—by taking a snapshot of my ballot, and sharing it on social media.

I gave no thought to violating the NS Election Act, let alone testing it. My only thought was to come up with an effective way to make a political statement to my fellow electors in Victoria-The Lakes.

Elections Nova Scotia’s response is quite possibly wrong in law, and to my ear, disproportionate in tone. I would have thought the agency had more important matters to tend to three days before an election.


* New Democrat John Frank Toney will poll well in Eskasoni and Wagmatcook, but he has no realistic chance of winning the seat. Nor does Stemmer MacLeod.

NDP rights and wrong — readers comment

Many of those who responded to my posts on the Dexter government’s mistakes and accomplishments (here,  herehere, and here) were disappointed New Democrats.

To my complaint that a small cadre of apparatchiks in the premier’s office exercised far too much central control, a party supporter employed in the administration offered this colourful label:

[A] group of too-young, nasty, disconnected, Harper-style assholes.

Another longtime party supporter on the party’s left flank wrote:

One of the most disappointing failures of the government was not bring more talented, knowledgeable, and competent people into the government and the party.

In every area the government claims to be interested in improving—the environment, poverty, health care, metal health, economic development, law reform, poverty reduction—there are activists who have toiled for years to bring about change. Many of these people are highly competent, and often more knowledgeable about these issue then either the elected politicians or the departmental bureaucrats.

Many, but certainly not all, are (or were) likely NDP supporters. They represent of pool of talent and possible new ideas that has been left almost completely untapped. I’m not suggesting that they should have immediately done a wholesale house cleaning, either in the government or the party but they should have immediately began recruiting among their ranks and brought them into influence as opportunities arose.

If they had, perhaps some of the mistakes you listed might have been avoided and we might also have seen much more solid progressive legislation. I think the similar case can be made for the approach to cabinet selection.

On the positive side, in spite of making some major mistakes and ignoring for too long concerned voices from their base, they have generally been more competent then any recent government, and much more competent then either of the opposition parties are likely to be. They have also made major positive change in a number of areas such as health care and the environment. Yet in spite of this it seems as if we are about to return to mediocre ineptitude.

Over the last 48 hours, polls have tightened from the breathtaking 30-point Liberal lead reported by Corporate Research Associates early in the week, to a merely commanding 18-20 point lead Thursday. The prospect of the Liberals carrying all but a handful of seats seems to have given some citizens pause, including one Halifax voter who was overheard to say:

I don’t like [the NDP], but the government wasn’t THAT bad.

On the weekend, a closer look at the Liberals’ election-lite platform.



New poll shows a slightly closer race. Maybe. Perhaps.

Readers of my two recent posts (here and here) on the Corporate Research Associates rolling poll for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald* should consider a new poll, commissioned by the right-wing Sun News Network, that shows a somewhat closer race than CRA’s eyebrow-raising results.


Sun headlined the 48-26-25 split, but it’s worth noting that when Abacus Data, the firm that conducted it, counted only respondents it deemed likely to vote, the numbers edged closer to the CRA results: 51-26-23. The likely voter sample included only 243 respondents, which yields a sampling error of ±6.4 percent, 19 times out of 20, somewhat higher than CRA’s. In short, the two polls are within each other’s margin of error.

Abacus showed the PCs nipping at the NDP’s heels, while CRA had them further back.

Although the Abacus sample was smaller than the seven day rolling average reported by CRA, all its calls were made on Monday and Tuesday, so it has the advantage of greater recency. This could be a sign the race is tightening; the Liberals still enjoy a commanding lead, but perhaps no longer a precedent-smashing one.

Abacus provided more detail than CRA about the questions it asked and the methodology it used.

Finally, Sun News announced that it had, commissioned Abacus to survey up to another 250 voters tonight, Saturday, and Sunday. That compares to the 90 or so voters CRA has been interviewing for the Chronicle-Herald. Unless the Herald ups CRA’s game, Sun-Abacus will have the authoritative poll going forward to election day.

At this point, I would summarize the difference between the two polls as a Liberal blowout (CRA) vs. a solid Liberal majority (Abacus). This could mean that some races thought to be tight in the early going—like Sydney-Whitney Pier, and Victoria-The Lakes—could still go either way. Or not. Because of the small numbers and the two companies’ different approaches to “likely” and “leaning” voters, the differences could be more apparent than real.

That’s enough bet-hedging from me for one night.

* I am pleased to note that the Chronicle-Herald, in a public spirited gesture, appears to be keeping much of its election related material, including the daily poll, outside its new paywall.


Don Mills plumbs the causes of the probable NDP collapse

Assume for the moment that the Corporate Research Associates poll showing Stephen McNeil’s Liberals with a 30-point lead is accurate (which I assume it is), and assume McNeil holds that lead until Tuesday (which remains to be seen).

The next question is, how the heck did this happen?

The NDP made serious mistakes (see here and here) but they did not run a horrible government (see here and here). Not everyone will agree, but there is a reasonable case that Dexter deserves another term, something of a tradition in Nova Scotia, as many have pointed out.

Don-MillsThe curious thing is that one detects little passion in this election at all, certainly no mad fury to throw the bastards out. Election signs are few, and in my circle at least, hardly anyone is talking about the election. The public exudes little warmth for McNeil, and his slender platform is pockmarked by a handful of dreadful ideas.

Without the CRA poll, my main expectation would be a record low turnout. These are not the impressions one expects a week before an electoral tidal wave strikes.

CRA Chairman and CEO Don Mills thinks the NDP’s problems are rooted in the fact it took power just as the worst recession in 80 years settled in to stay.

“These have been the most difficult economic times in most people’s living memory here,” he told Contrarian in a telephone interview Tuesday.

CRA tracks the economic wellbeing of Nova Scotians every quarter, and in each of the last four years, 40 percent of its respondents reported no increase in pay. Inflation, meanwhile, has eaten away at the value of their pay checks. In effect, a large cohort of Nova Scotia’s middle class has seen a 10 percent drop in buying power during the four-plus years of the Dexter Government. This may be no fault of the NDP, but that’s of little consequence to fed-up voters.

“Virtually every household is worse off,” said Mills. “I think they would have very little patience with any government—and it doesn’t matter what government it is, by the way. I think this is why electricity rates are such a sore point.”

To that economic malaise, add the voters’ dashed hopes that the NDP would be different. Take a closer look at Mills’s poll. Dexter was elected in June 2009 with 45 percent of the vote. Within six weeks, his government’s popularity soared to 60 percent. Voters—even those who didn’t vote NDP—must have said to themselves, “Let’s give these new guys a chance. Maybe they really will turn out to be different.”

The new government did little in its first six months, and then the expense scandal hit, with Dexter smack in the middle of it. In retrospect, I believe this created a sense of disillusionment that voters have been nursing ever since.

Side benefit of a Liberal sweep: accessible MLAs’ offices

Unintended Consequences Dept.: If next week’s election turns into a Liberal sweep, as seems increasingly likely, there will be many, many new faces at Province House. All those new members will be required to find fully accessible constituency offices within one year, or forego reimbursement of their office expenses. Returning members have three years to comply.

AMI, the accessible cable channel, has a nice video on the new rules:

These consequences aren’t completely unintended, of course, but at the time the new rules passed the House of Assembly Management Committee, few realized how many freshman MLAs might be arriving later this month.

That Don Mills poll

Don Mills sounds nervous.

Nova Scotia’s best known pollster has been conducting a rolling poll for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, and over the last week, his numbers have pointed to an historic rout. For the last five days, he has shown Stephen McNeil’s Liberals holding steady between 55 and 57 percent of decided voters—enough to propel him to a lopsided majority.

“We’re under a lot of scrutiny here,” he told Contrarian.

Here’s the latest edition, published Tuesday morning:

To understand how unusual such an outcome would be, I looked at every Nova Scotia election since 1960. Over those 15 provincial votes:

  • The winning party got more than 55 percent of the vote only once: Robert Stanfield’s PCs took 56.2 percent in 1963, in what was essentially a two-party race.
  • Only three times has the winning party won more than 50 percent of the vote: Stanfield did it in ’63 and ’67; John Buchanan got 50.6 percent in 1984.
  • In all three of these contests, the opposition party or parties were crushed. The Liberals won just four seats in 1963 and just six in ’67. When Buchanan got just 50 percent of the vote in the 1984 election, the opposition parties shared 10 seats: six for the Liberals, three for the NDP, and one for independent Paul MacEwan.

John Savage’s Liberals won 49.7 percent of the vote in 1993, and took 40 seats to the PCs’ nine and the NDP’s 3. All of these number reflect the reality that, in a first-past-the-post election system, when one party’s vote percentage goes above 50 percent, the number of seats it can win goes up exponentially.

Here’s the historical record, minus third parties and independents:


[Yellow highlighter indicates a minority government. The complete spreadsheet, which includes third parties and independents, can be downloaded here.]

If CRA’s numbers are anywhere near correct, and I expect they are, then every assumption about this election goes out the window. Seats thought to be in play will fall easily to the Liberals. Some seats assumed to be safe will fall to the Liberals. The premier’s seat, Jamie Baillie’s, and those of prominent cabinet ministers, could be at risk.

Mills views this cautiously. Much could change in a week, but if the current spread holds, he expects both opposition parties will have high single digit seat tallies, “closer to 10 than to zero.” If the total exceeds 55 percent, Mills may be understating this.

“To have [a 30-point spread] in a three-party election is extraordinary,” Mills said. “I’m stunned by it. It’s very hard to explain.”

On which, more later.

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