The victory of Nova Scotia’s progressive conservatives over the liberals on Tuesday night has officially shot down any idea that the rulers could slide into re-election, and should get federal strategists perked up, experts and insiders say.

Liberal leader Iain Rankin called snap elections to capitalize on Nova Scotia’s handling of the pandemic. But despite leading the polls heading into Election Day, his party was reduced to Opposition status when Prime Minister-designate Tim Houston’s CPs became a majority government.

Houston ran a campaign focused on health care, promising to invest about $ 500 million more annually, while Rankin He suggested PCs tried to buy votes with expensive software.

Houston was “running things that are just plain, not traditional pieces of the conservative platform,” said former NDP Prime Minister Darrell Dexter. “This is a guy who said he would invest $ 500 million more in healthcare, and he didn’t really seem to be concerned about a shortfall, and he doesn’t plan to balance the books this quarter.”

Dexter, who led the province’s NDP government from 2009 to 2013 before Stephen McNeil’s Liberals took office (McNeil resigned in February, passing the torch to Rankin), said he wonders if this should be considered a pandemic election. or not.

Are “these elections pandemic or post-pandemic?” he said. “And I don’t mean that in the sense of the pandemic itself because everyone recognizes that it is happening, but… people are looking beyond the pandemic to managing the issues that concern them for years to come.

“There’s a certain kind of feeling that, yes, the federal government and the provincial government here did a good job of handling the pandemic, but that’s their job after all, so you don’t necessarily get credit for that. “, said. .

Take Winston Churchill who seeks to profit from the fall of Nazi Germany, but lost his bid for reelection in 1945 despite his wartime popularity, Dexter said.

“Managing during a crisis, the skills that you have on display, are not necessarily the same skills that people look for after the crisis is over,” he said.

Dalhousie University political science professor Katherine Fierlbeck also cited Churchill.

“(Churchill) was a leader of the war, but when the war ended, people wanted to move on,” he said, explaining that a similar dynamic may have developed in Nova Scotia.

What lessons should federal strategists learn from the Nova Scotia elections? #cdnpoli #nspoli # Election 2021

“For almost eight years, we had a liberal government that had a clear autocratic streak, with a very strong, top-down, non-consultative approach to governance, and … the party itself was limping,” he said, referring to McNeil’s. tenure. “But then COVID came along, and this leadership style was just the ticket to dealing with the pandemic.

“I think the provincial liberals assumed that the election could be fought largely in their handling of (the pandemic), but in the end, it was not enough.”

Fierlbeck said that not resting on the laurels of managing a pandemic is probably the most important lesson for federal strategists, but there are a handful of other reasons Ottawa experts should pay attention. Among them is the willingness to spend public money and the importance of health care to voters.

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“Like the federal liberals, this new provincial government has not expressed any qualms about spending large amounts of money to fix things in the short term, and it seems to have worked in Nova Scotia,” he said.

That means Houston’s tactic of going big on healthcare spending stands in contrast to Erin O’Toole’s strategy of go after Justin Trudeau for what he considers pandemic overspending.

Fierlbeck says that while the big spending plans may have worked in Nova Scotia, the progressive NS conservatives are “essentially another liberal party,” so it would be a mistake to assume that a PC victory is a boon to conservatives nationwide. .

“Tim Houston is not Erin O’Toole,” he said. “If anything, Houston seems to fit a lot more into the bill of a Trudeausian liberal, so on that reading, the question is: (is it) O’Toole or Trudeau who should feel the palpitations of anxiety here?”

For months, Houston has also he distanced himself from O’Toole’s conservatives, making it less clear what kind of elevator O’Toole can or can’t see.

British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon have all had pandemic elections that returned incumbents to power.

John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer

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