The change in party fortunes that brought the Progressive Conservatives to a convincing majority in the Nova Scotia provincial elections may be less a sign of hope for Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, and more of a warning for Liberal leader. Justin Trudeau.

That’s the conclusion of at least one political expert, who points out that Nova Scotia’s new prime minister-designate, Tim Houston, did indeed make a point during his campaign to distance himself from his federal cousins ​​and label himself a “conservative.” Red”.

As of Wednesday morning, Houston’s PC party appears to have taken 31 of the province’s 55 seats, and the results are still being tabulated. That nullifies two successive terms of a provincial liberal government, which entered the elections in the hope of converting its minority into a majority.

O’Toole, who is just days after his own election campaign on the federal stage, was quick to congratulate houston on “a great night” in Nova Scotia.

But while Nova Scotia’s political map has largely turned blue, including several constituencies that have traditionally been red, there’s no reason to believe that will translate to the federal level, said Lori Turnbull, associate professor of political science at the University. from Dalhousie in Halifax.

Houston went to great lengths during the campaign to paint himself as a Red Tory and to distance himself from the federal Tories and their leader, repeatedly emphasizing “progressive” in Progressive Conservative.

“My focus is Nova Scotians, and I’ve always been on Nova Scotia,” Houston told the Star in an interview before Election Day. “That is why I am not indebted to any federal leader.

“We are the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. The federal party is called the Conservative Party of Canada. They are not just different words, they are different matches. I, personally, am not a member of the federal party. “

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Turnbull said voters recognized the difference.

“A vote for Houston is not the same as a vote for Erin O’Toole,” Turnbull said. “One person could absolutely support Houston and want nothing to do with Erin O’Toole. Houston seems to want nothing to do with Erin O’Toole.

“So I don’t think this is a sign that conservative things are happening at the federal level in Nova Scotia.”

The provincial election came down more to how candidates ran their campaigns than to their party’s brands, Turnbull said.

The question to be explored in the coming days is whether Houston won the election, whether liberal leader Iain Rankin lost the election, or whether the result was a combination of the two.

“Houston was very clear about healthcare and (NDP leader Gary) Burrill was very clear about affordable housing and rent control, and Rankin didn’t have a message like that, that he really liked it,” he said. Turnbull.

“It’s not that I didn’t have a campaign. It’s just that there wasn’t that one issue that he really put his identity on or focused on. “

“(Houston) offered an alternative to government that was plausible and that made sense to the people. He is not a conservative like O’Toole. It’s a red Tory. And he campaigned on that. “

Ultimately, it appears that conservatives are focused on health care, a thorn in the side of most Nova Scotians that had the most resonance for voters.

If there’s anything to think about for Justin Trudeau in the Nova Scotia election, it may be the fact that, with the country potentially in the last stages of a pandemic, guiding voters through the COVID crisis no longer guarantees a victory. in the power.

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In Nova Scotia, liberals learned of that in a painful way, as Rankin led a low-key campaign, while his opponents criticized key issues other than COVID-19. In a federal election, Turnbull said, Trudeau would do well to take notes.

The upcoming federal elections are a double-edged sword for Trudeau.

For one thing, voters tend to be reluctant to change leaders during a crisis. In Nova Scotia, with its low case count and high vaccination rates, it appears that voters went from crisis mode to thinking about particular issues, to the benefit of Houston and to the detriment of Rankin.

For Trudeau, much will depend on whether voters perceive the pandemic to be in its waning stages, in which case they may broaden their perspective to other issues, or whether, with the increasing number of Delta variant cases in some places, they believe the pandemic to be ongoing, in which case they are likely to dance with the one who brought them.

But if the latter is the case, and voters are nervous about the increase in the number of cases, the inevitable attack from opposing parties will be the convenience of campaigning during a COVID crisis.

“Erin O’Toole is going to get very strong on that message,” Turnbull said. “If the COVID numbers continue to rise, then he will say, ‘The prime minister has put us all in danger by calling these elections.’

“He’s already saying it, and he will say it even more.”

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