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.

Cherry Ferguson Award: Melissa Blake


[Editor’s Note: In a scrum with reporters late in his fourth, scandal-plagued term as Premier of Nova Scotia, John Buchanan famously defended one Cherry Ferguson, a favoured civil servant who’d been discovered to be holding down three senior provincial government jobs. His exact words are lost to history, but they ran along these lines: “She doesn’t have three jobs. She’s Deputy Clerk of the House, Chief Electoral Officer, and a lawyer for the Workers’ Compensation Board. That’s not three jobs.” To honour this great moment in political communication, Contrarian  from time to time presents the Cherry Ferguson Award to an official who can stare an obvious but unpleasant truth in the face, in broad daylight, where all the world can see it, and declare it not to be there.]

Today’s award goes to Melissa Blake, Mayor of the Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality, who voiced pique at singer Neil Young’s declaration that Fort McMurray is “a wasteland” that “looks like Hiroshima.”

When people say it’s a wasteland, it really and truly isn’t. When it comes to the community of Fort McMurray, you’re overwhelmed, frankly, by the beauty of it. You’ve got an incredible boreal environment that’s all around you. You proceed further north into the oil sands and inevitably, there’s mining operations that will draw your attention because they take up large chunks of land.

Fort Mac is part of Mayor Blake’s Wood Buffalo municipality. Feast yours eyes on the beauty of its surroundings.

Tar Sands4


Tar Pit #3


And finally, the trailer for Petropolis, a Greenpeace advocacy doc on the Tar Sands:

[Video link]

That NDP news conference – ctd.

Martin MacKinnon writes:

I am appalled by these NDP apologists — I do hope they’re getting paid — on the  $42,000* press release. Regardless if some of the $42K should not have been included, it did include funding for things like buses and “marketing consultants.” If this was a Rodney MacDonald Tory event, I am sure these people would have also pointed out that the $42K was overstated. These NDP’er’s are double hypocrites. One because they are governing like Tories (John Buchanan should be proud) and because they told their party members they would govern differently. Shame on them.

*The $42,000 is overstated, a concoction of the Chronicle-Herald that mixes $11,000 in announcement expenses with $31,000 in expenses related to producing an electricity plan, and pretends they are all news conference costs. The Herald repeats this misrepresentation for a third time in today’s edition, along with the false claim that Dan O’Connor twice denied posting a comment to the Herald’s website.

This double misrepresentation of the story, repeated three days running despite clear contrary evidence, is a blatant display of dishonesty. Apparently, the Herald prefers to misinform its readers and defame others rather than acknowledge its error.


The June 9 general election saw a new party take power in Nova Scotia. It bears comment that, to the best of Contrarian‘s knowledge, not a single highway worker lost his job as a result, and this non-massacre occurred without notice.

On September 20, 1978, the day after John Buchanan defeated Gerald Regan, many highway workers didn’t bother to show up for work. It went without saying that Tory sympathizers would take over their jobs.

The next time government changed hands, in 1993, Liberal hacks were so infuriated at John Savage’s refusal to cleanse highway garages of Tory hires, they eventually hounded him out of office in favor of the more patronage-amenable Russell MacLellan.

John Hamm wisely resisted partisan bloodlust when he took power in 1999.

Ten years later, it doesn’t even occur to anyone that a highway foreman’s job might depend on party affiliation.