Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter is preparing to go to the polls and ask to be re-elected for a second term on a $34.3-million, seven-point platform emphasizing job creation and help for families.
The Premier was coy about when he intends to call an election during his platform launch on Friday in Halifax. The wait is not expected to be long. Rumours are that he will call it on Saturday during a visit to Cape Breton. The vote would take place on Oct. 8.
"Every day, the next election gets one day closer," he said on Friday, surprising pundits and observers who thought he would call the election then and there.
He did everything but drop the writ, delivering a stump-like campaign speech, outlining his government's accomplishments, his new plan and taking aim at the opposition Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. No surprise that his opponents criticized his tactics, accusing him of playing games by releasing a thin platform but not calling an election.
Speculation is rife in the province because the Dexter government – the first NDP administration elected in Nova Scotia – has been spreading about $60-million worth of largesse around since its April budget.
Adding to expectations was last month's very early release of the government's economic update that showed it was not only on track to balance the books, but that it had an even bigger surplus than predicted in the spring budget.
This week, the government announced success in negotiations to restart ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland, Me., in May, 2014.
Elected in June, 2009, with a majority, Mr. Dexter did not have to call a vote until June, 2014. Nova Scotia has no fixed election date.
Although it is curious for the platform to be released before the election is called, Mr. Dexter said his party wanted to "make sure Nova Scotians have as much time as possible to look at our plan for a better future for them and their family."
His plan is light on details, which his strategists say will be revealed during the campaign. Reporters were given estimates for the costs of the proposed programs, including $18-million for job creation. According to the one-page platform, this would include a multiyear plan for "local roads," a micro-credit for small businesses, an HST rebate for new home construction, and help for new graduates to buy their first home.
As well, the NDP is promising $6.5-million for special-needs children and a skills program for at-risk youth. The party would also allocate $3.2-million to remove the HST from children's car seats and strollers. The NDP previously promised to reduce the HST by two percentage points over the next two years – 2014 and 2015. The province's HST is 15 per cent.
The NDP has 31 of 51 seats. The Liberals have 12 and the Progressive Conservatives have seven.
Mr. Dexter said the 2009 election was about change, but this one will be about "the future" of families, seniors and children.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil has been topping Mr. Dexter in the polls and says the election will be about leadership and who is the most trustworthy.
He called the NDP platform a "piece of paper with no details around it, no costing of it." He suggested the NDP would have to cut services and programs to afford its plan.
PC Leader Jamie Baillie, meanwhile, said the election will be about jobs and the economy and "which party and which leader is prepared to make the real changes to the way the province is run to turn our economy around."