Opposition leaders prepare for possible election amid flurry of government announcements
All 3 major parties have ramped up the candidate nomination process
Premier Iain Rankin says he isn't thinking about an election right now.
But, when that time comes, he'll have plenty of photo opportunities to choose from for his campaign material following a recent flurry of spending announcements.
Rankin was on the road Friday, part of a day when members of his government touted three projects.
Two of those, which the premier attended with caucus and party members in tow, were in Cape Breton. He's scheduled to make two more announcements on the island Saturday.
"It's fairly typical after you pass a budget to start to roll out those announcements in detail," he said following an event in Port Hawkesbury.
"That's what we're doing now. We had a [public health] shutdown for the month of May. So we're going to continue to invest in the future prosperity of this province and I'm really excited to get out and see Nova Scotians."
Announcements throughout June
Friday's events included money for active transportation routes in the Port Hawkesbury area, school capital projects in Mabou and water system upgrades in Lunenburg County.
Rankin is scheduled to make an announcement at the site of the Englishtown ferry and about downtown revitalization work in Sydney on Saturday.
This all comes on the heels of other major announcements this week, including design plans for a new Bedford ferry, $18.2 million to support the tourism industry and a new pathway stream to attract immigrants.
In recent weeks the Liberals have also announced money for the cancer unit at Yarmouth Regional Hospital, $4.2 million for public transportation services, affordable housing projects, $25 million to upgrade to schools, support for small business and a new French language school in Halifax.
The Liberals have also had a host of candidate nominations in recent weeks, with 45 out of 55 candidates now in place.
Tory Leader Tim Houston said it seems like an election is imminent based on the premier's actions, but Houston said he thinks most people in the province are more concerned right now about getting their two doses of vaccine.
Houston said the premier's focus must remain on the pandemic.
He alleged Rankin's attempts to reopen the province earlier this spring were motivated by a desire to call an election, and Houston has suggested that contributed to the province's third wave.
"We're all counting on the premier to stay very focused on getting through COVID and getting the vaccines in arms and having a safe reopening and I think that's where most Nova Scotians would like to see the premier's focus remain," he said.
"And it seems like he's distracted again. I was hoping he's learned his lesson. We'll see."
Still, with 40 people nominated for his own party, Houston, who has been knocking on doors with candidates, said the Tories will be prepared for whenever an election is called. Nova Scotia is the only province without fixed election dates.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill, whose party has 38 nominated candidates, said it's difficult to miss all the spending announcements.
But Burrill said he's less interested in items announced a second time from the current budget than he is in Rankin's plans for the subsequent budget. The outlook for 2022-23 calls for a reduction in department spending by $200 million and Burrill said the government has yet to explain how that can happen without a reduction in services to the public.
"That's where we need to have the spending information, where is this money going to come from" he said.
"So I would just like to see the same kind of energy and focus and precision on the post-election spending as we're seeing on the pre-election front."
'He is not telling you the truth'
Burrill said Rankin's ongoing insistence that he's not thinking about an election rings hollow.
"When a premier tells you in the [final] year of a second majority mandate that an election is not on his mind, he is not telling you the truth."
The NDP leader, who is also out knocking on doors, said people are less focused on public affairs right now than they are on their own lives and he expects that to carry into an election campaign that appears poised to happen in the summer.
As of Thursday, 68.8 per cent of the population in Nova Scotia has received one or more vaccine doses. With a major increase in supply on its way, second dose appointments are being bumped up, in some cases by more than a month from what was previously scheduled.
The current projected reopening dates for Nova Scotia include June 30 for Phase 3 and July 14 for Phase 4.
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With files from Matthew Moore and Paul Withers.