My heart bled for that hapless gal on the radio the morning after Tuesday’s provincial election. When a reporter informed her Nova Scotians had elected another minority government, the poor thing cried out, “What a bloody waste of money!” She was dead wrong, of course. In my own riding of Waverley—Fall River—Beaver Bank, the NDP’s Percy Paris finally beat Tory Gary Hines, a good old boy who stirred up controversy in the ’90s when he penned “politically incorrect” columns disparaging blacks and aboriginals in a local newsletter. Paris, a well-known black educator, is a visible reminder that, thanks to the election, things are changing for the better in dear old NS.
When I moved into this riding two decades ago, the NDP had a grand total of three seats in the Legislature and they lost one of those in the next election. After Tuesday’s vote, they have 20, only three fewer than the governing Tories. The party broke through in areas that once seemed unwinnable, like the rural ridings of Shelburne, Queens and Pictou East. In downtown Halifax, political science prof Leonard Preyra beat Bill ‘Moneybags’ Black, sending the one-time Tory leadership hopeful to some well-earned R&R on the golf course.
Predictably, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce moaned that another minority government will be bad for business. That I doubt. Catering to business with generous subsidies, resource giveaways, lax regulations and low taxes is a well-entrenched part of the NS political culture. Just ask the big forest, mining and fishing companies. I doubt our business-friendly politicians will injure the profits of big banks and insurance companies, not to mention a certain tire giant that has flourished for decades under a special law designed to keep its workforce union-free. But at the same time, I am sure minority government will also be good for old people and students. Both the Tories and the NDP promised to lower sky-high tuition fees and to provide more nursing home beds. Now they’ll have to honour those pledges, while still balancing the budget.
“Nova Scotians have again chosen to retain some of the power for themselves,” NDP leader Darrell Dexter declared on election night. He was right. The Tories still get to govern, but with the NDP breathing down their necks, they’ll have to listen carefully to a broad range of interests. Maybe they’ll even reinstate the Nova Scotia Arts Council, the arms-length funding agency that Rodney MacDonald summarily axed four years ago when the Tories still had a majority government.
At the same time, I’m hoping the NDP will take up the cause of Nova Scotia’s poor people and their 40,000 children. As the election campaign began, I pointed out that since 1989, welfare rates have fallen an astonishing 65 percent for single recipients, 26 percent for the disabled, 43 percent for single parents with one child and 31 percent for a couple with two children. Those figures are from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a well-respected, left-leaning think tank. The CCPA has also calculated that when inflation is taken into account, Nova Scotia’s minimum wage has not increased in three decades. “In fact the buying power of the minimum wage is lower today than it was in 1975,” a CCPA news release pointed out last year. That may be fine for the likes of McDonalds, Tim Hortons and Wal-Mart, but it’s a disaster for the working poor. It’s time our politicians did something to alleviate poverty in Nova Scotia. Nothing will happen, though, unless the NDP uses its clout in the legislature to force the Tories to raise welfare rates and minimum wages.
No, this election was far from “a bloody waste of money.” The voters made it clear once again that no party deserves absolute power. Now it’s up to the politicians to make the new government work.
Can’t we all just get along? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org