Nova Scotia

Officials need $2.7M budget boost for possible early election call

Nova Scotia's chief electoral officer has warned the McNeil government not having a fixed election date may mean taxpayers will pay $605,000 for training and other election preparation that will need to be redone if there's no early election call.

If there's no 2020 spring election, $605,000 more would be needed to redo work

An all-party committee of the Nova Scotia Legislature has recommended Elections Nova Scotia receive an extra $2.7 million in its 2019-20 budget to cover the cost of preparing for a possible election next spring. (CBC)

An all-party committee of the Nova Scotia Legislature has recommended Elections Nova Scotia receive an extra $2.7 million in its 2019-20 budget to cover the cost of preparing for a possible election in the spring of 2020.

The work is needed because Nova Scotia, unlike every other province, doesn't have a fixed election date and Premier Stephen McNeil has the power to call an election at any time.

Richard Temporale, Nova Scotia's chief electoral officer, said if there is no early election his office would need roughly $605,000 next fiscal year to redo some of that preparation.

"Our first election readiness date is April 2020," Temporale told reporters following the committee meeting. "We have to start getting ready now.

"We have to buy lots of materials. We have to buy computer equipment. We have to hire new staff and we have to start training."

PC House leader Chris d'Entremont believes in a fixed date for a provincial election. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

If there is no early election call, Temporale said some of the 260 people hired to make up the "core election staff" may not be available for a later date and those who can work would need refresher training. 

He said having a fixed election date would provide greater certainly and allow his office to better plan and budget.

"We wouldn't have to do the retraining that we do. …We could lock down our returning offices and our polling locations, which is always a scramble at the end," said Temporale.

Opposition members are sold on a fixed election date.

"Nova Scotians are paying more so the premier has the right to call his own election when he feels he's ready, but ultimately I think we save money and it's better for [everybody], not just the savings of government coffers … it helps out political parties as well," said PC House Leader Chris d'Entremont.

"We spend too much money on elections because of the uncertainty," he said.

NDP House leader Claudia Chender thinks the party in power gains by having no fixed election date. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

NDP House leader Claudia Chender said the party in power reaps the benefits of having no fixed election date.

"Because they have the advantage of being able to be ready for an election before their opponents are," she said.

"If you look across the country, if you look at other jurisdictions, it just makes more sense that we could have that certainty about when an election is."

But Geoff MacLellan, the government House leader, told reporters the Liberals support the current system.

Geoff MacLellan says the Liberals support the current system. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"That's not something we're going to change," he said. "When we're ready to call an election, that's at the behest of the government."

Facing a move

Elections Nova Scotia is also asking for $270,000 to move because the landlord for the building it now calls home wants it for other purposes.

The office has also budgeted $200,000 for the byelection in Sackville-Cobequid.

If the Treasury Board approves the spending estimates, the Elections Nova Scotia would budget would nearly double in 2019-20.

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