Category: Nova Scotia Politics

Aging-white-dude watch

Previously, Contrarian’s curmudgeonly friend, who happens to be an aging white man, commented sardonically on all the factors besides talent that Stephen McNeil would have to weigh in selecting a cabinet. Contrarian, who is likewise aging and white [see illustration at right], allowed himself to fantasize about a cabinet chosen solely on the basis of ability.

One Contrarian reader took this as a prescription for a cabinet of old white men, to which I replied, “Seriously? Aren’t we past the day when aging white men with old ideas are the only people thought to have talent?”

Contrarian reader Jesse Gainer writes:

I’m rather shocked you find this shocking. There is little to no evidence to support the idea that we live in some post-racial Utopian society that has moved on from an old-white-dude-centric view of what is best for people, especially since the majority of decision makers in western society continue to be old white dudes.

It is rather funny that an aging white man would write an opinion column expressing shock that aging white men still benefit from privilege.

Why do new governments get a honeymoon?

Because, for all our cynicism about politics, we want them to succeed.

We wanted Darrell Dexter to succeed, and our unrealistic expectations for his government never recovered from its series of early missteps.

Despite a majority of comparable magnitude, Stephen McNeil comes to office with far lower expectations than his predecessor. His deliberately bland campaign included a few platform whoppers he’ll be foolhardy to implement (one big health board, deregulation of electricity markets, defunding energy Efficiency Nova Scotia), but for the most part, he is free from extravagant commitments. This lowers the risk of early disappointments, though not necessarily missteps.

McNeil has another advantage over Dexter. Whatever doubts we may harbour as to his own ability to handle the difficult job he has won, his cabinet includes a solid core of experienced and shrewd political veterans with at least the potential to manage complex departmental responsibilities.

Where Dexter had only Steele, MacDonald, and Estabrooks to inspire confidence, McNeil has Regan, Whelan, Samson, MacLellan, Glavine, and Casey.

They have a tough job. We wish them well because, it bears repeating, we all want them to succeed.




Cabinetry feedback: Other backseat carpenters weigh in


Our curmudgeonly friend drew my attention to a Canadian Press dispatch listing the factors Premier-to-be Stephen McNeil will have to consider when choosing his cabinet before he gets to competence or talent. This led me to a momentary reverie about the sort of government we might have if ability were the only factor in picking the government.

Contrarian reader Tim Segulin writes:

You never know, McNeil may just run the government out of his office the way Harper does and Dexter apparently did. That way important decisions don’t really get made by ministers who are implied to not be up to the job, but they still act as his regional ears to the ground and their ridings feel well served.

Ron Stockton has a different view:

If we give up all consideration of factors other than who is “best,” we’ll end up with a bunch of white men, mostly old but at least with old ideas, because it has always been old, white men who define what is “best.”

My guess is there are different “bests” depending on the background and interests of those setting the standards. All the more reason to require a broad representation and to have more than one white man making the decision about who gets in Cabinet. For example, let caucus decide who amongst them will sit in Cabinet subject only to those other representational considerations.

Seriously? Aren’t we past the day when aging white men with old ideas are the only people thought to have talent?


Our curmudgeonly friend sends along a Canadian Press dispatch about the process of assembling Stephen McNeil’s new cabinet.

However, experience is just one of several factors McNeil will be considering when handing out portfolios. The cabinet must also reflect a broad cross-section of the province’s geography and its ethnic, racial and linguistic mixture.

Our friend comments:

That’s right. That’s how we got Sterling Belliveau. What good would a cabinet be without a Sterling Belliveau in it?

Imagine what McNeil’s cabinet could look like if he had the cojones to ignore geography, gender, ethnicity, race, and language. What would happen if he just picked the very best people among the 33 members of his caucus?

Nah! Nova Scotia is far too committed to mediocrity.

Elections NS will hold back poll-by-poll results until month’s end

In a break with decades of past practice, Nova Scotia elections officials say they will withhold detailed results of the October 7 8 election for almost a month. In previous provincial elections, newspapers published poll-by-poll results a day or two after the vote.

At a time when the internet has encouraged governments of all shapes and sizes to be more forthcoming with useful data, Elections Nova Scotia is moving in the opposite direction.

Dana Phillip Doiron, director of policy and communications, declined to explain the policy change except to say the Chronicle-Herald “had no interest” in publishing this election’s poll-by-poll results, and Chief Electoral Officer Richard P. Temporale decided to wait until official results are ready at month’s end.

Differences between the preliminary and official results are usually small, and rarely affect the outcome in any riding.

Doiron declined to let Contrarian publish preliminary poll-by-poll results, and did not respond to a request for an interview with the Temporale.

For those who weren’t around, it’s hard to capture the degree to which this reversal of longstanding openness about election results represents a throwback to attitudes that prevailed in Nova Scotia’s bureaucracy 40 years ago. It’s like walking into government office and finding shag carpet on the floor, lava lamps on the desks, and Wayne Newton on the P.A.

To be sure, some government departments still work hard to avoid disclosing embarrassing information, exploiting loopholes in the Freedom of Information law and the near total breakdown of its enforcement in the province. It’s a standard damage control tactic.

But this is different. Nothing in the poll-by-poll results could conceivably embarrass Temporale or his agency. He is withholding the information because he can. He has decided, in his wisdom, that we don’t need to have it, notwithstanding keen interest among political geeks eager to dig into it.

Father knows best. Mere citizens can wait.

Forty years ago, Temporale’s instinctual proprietary impulse was nearly universal in Halifax. Bureaucrats regarded information in their custody as personal property, and citizens seeking access to it as unworthy supplicants.

Ironically, election results were always an exception to these attitudes of yore. Unlike Elections Nova Scotia of 2013, responsible officials in the ’50s and ’60s saw the prompt release of election results as their duty.

Here is Contrarian’s email exchange with Doiron:

From: Parker Donham
Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:59 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: poll-by-poll results

Hi Dana,

In almost 40 years of covering and following NS elections, I cannot ever recall it taking so long to see poll-by-poll returns. In years past, they were in the paper within two days of the election. What gives?

(I just checked the website, and at this moment, it appears to be down. is functioning normally.)


From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 11:56:40 AM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results will be published at the end of the month. The website is working fine for me. Unsure of source of your problem.


From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:44 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results

It was probably a momentary thing, and quite possibly at me end

Why on earth are you taking so long to publish the results?

Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 12:48:48 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results you may have seen in the past are the unofficial count before “official addition” and the return of the writ. The Herald customarily published them within a couple of days of election night. The Herald had no interest in doing that this election. The CEO decided to publish the official results, poll-by-poll, as quickly as possible, together with maps and other data.


From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 1:38 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results


Contrarian is interested in publishing them. Can I get them?


Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 2:25:04 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

Not until we’ve published them.


From: Parker DonhamSubject:
Re: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 4:28:57 PM ADT
To: “Doiron, Dana P”

Hi Dana:

Can you offer any explanation why? This data has previously been available much sooner. I just find the change in policy mystifying. Most organizations are publishing their data quicker now that it is so easy to do so on the Internet. Elections NS seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

If the answer is that it’s what the Chief Electoral Officer decided, could you please arrange an interview with him for tomorrow?

Thanks very much,

[As of this posting, there was no response.]

Dear Elections NS: Where are the poll-by-poll results?

Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 10.02.03 PMThe election took place a week ago, but Elections Nova Scotia has still not published the poll-by-poll results from each riding. This, despite a notice on the agency’s website (see right) promising to post them by last Friday.

In past elections, newspapers carried the poll-by-poll results two days after the vote, if not the very next day.

These were understood to be unofficial results. Minor adjustments inevitably followed before the final, official results were published in a booklet. But the preliminary totals have always been public information.

Elections Nova Scotia obviously has the numbers. Why is it withholding them?

I suspect we will hear some song and dance about waiting until they deem the results “final” or “official,” as if the nabobs of Elections Nova Scotia possess some special wisdom and maturity to handle preliminary data that would send ordinary Nova Scotians into paroxysms of… well, of what, exactly?

This attitude would be of a piece with the creeping authoritarianism that seems to have overtaken Elections Nova Scotia—illustrated by the kneecapping of its political donations reports  (a misstep it partially relented on this summer), and the bully boy hissy fit it threw in response to a small handful of ballot snapshots.

Interactive map shows the sweep

ESRI Canada, a Canadian supplier of geographic information system services, has produced an interactive map of the Nova Scotia Liberal election sweep. Slide the vertical bar back and forth to change from the 2009 election results to last Tuesday’s.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed the tool, but clicking on the screenshot below will take you to it.

With help from Dave MacLean of COGS, the image is now embedded. Find the source page here.

H/T: Dave MacLean. Credits: Elections Nova Scotia and ESRI.

Make that 1,049 votes from annihilation, theoretically

Sharp-penciled Contrarian reader Gus Reed points out that the Dips could have been wiped off Nova Scotia’s electoral map by as few as 1,049 votes, not 2,087 as I wrote Friday. For this to happen, all the defectors would have had to switch their votes to the second-place finisher in their respective ridings. 1,049 switchers would have done the trick under those highly theoretical circumstances.

But then the whole exercise was theoretical.

By the same token, Darrell Dexter would have needed only 11 Liberal voters switching to him to hold his seat.

These scenarios raise another question, likewise theoretical. In the 2000 Florida recount, we learned that the US election system is insufficiently accurate to determine the winner in extremely close races. No one knows who won that primary; the outcome was decided when five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court chose the candidate they liked best.

For all its apparent crudeness—paper ballots marked with a stubby wooden pencil—Canada’s election system is much better at deciding close contests. But can it reliably determine the outcome of races in which a single vote separates the top two finishers? Probably not. Party apparatchiks could always find reasonable doubt about the validity, eligibility, or probable intentions of at least one ballot, or at least one voter. My hunch is that a string of ridings decided by one vote would result in a string of judicially ordered by=elections.

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.

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