Nova Scotia

Greens could be faced with N.S. summer election while still choosing new leader

If Premier Iain Rankin calls an election this month, the Green Party of Nova Scotia may be forced to campaign with an interim leader rather than someone permanent at the helm. That's because the party is in the midst of a leadership campaign and won't pick a new leader until mid-August.

Green Party of Nova Scotia leadership vote currently scheduled for Aug. 14

Interim Green Party of Nova Scotia leader Jessica Alexander. (Submitted by Jessica Alexander)

When it comes to election timing, the Green Party of Nova Scotia can't get a break.

In 2017, Leader Thomas Trappenberg, a Dalhousie University professor, had to begin his party's campaign from a distance because he was at an international conference in Anchorage, Alaska, when Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil called the election.

If McNeil's successor, Iain Rankin, drops the writ this summer before mid-August, the Green Party's interim leader, Jessica Alexander, may have to be at the helm, again, through part or all of the campaign.

Nova Scotia Greens are in the midst of a leadership campaign, after Trappenberg announced he was stepping aside in April. The party is accepting nominations until Thursday. The vote for leader and deputy leader is scheduled for Aug. 14.

"It's not ideal," Alexander told CBC News. "It wasn't ideal the last time I did it in 2017, either."

As the party's deputy leader in 2017, Alexander became its chief spokesperson for half of the four-week-long campaign, until Trappenberg returned to the province.

"Sometimes we find out what we're capable of by showing up in a difficult circumstances," Alexander said of her experience leading the party four years ago.

"But when you know why you're there and you have a good grasp of what the issues are, what the communities are, how to win a vote on a doorstep, how to discuss issues with media and how to build your team, it's not that different from what I've already done."

Thomas Trappenburg stepped down as Green Party of Nova Scotia leader in April. (Robert Short/CBC)

Alexander feels the party is in better shape this time to shake off this potential disadvantage.

"Now we have more people, more candidates vetted ahead of time," she said. "Our processes are better. Our documents are filed. We have a better constitution and bylaws that are actually a lot more practical for us.

"So we are strong enough at this point, I think, to weather that."

Although the party has not been able to find candidates to run in each riding during the past two general elections, Alexander said the party is hoping to field a full slate of 55 candidates this time.

"Well, we shoot for a full slate," said Alexander. "Of course, we would have the maximum amount of credibility at that point."

The P.E.I. model

Alexander said the party is modelling its approach to this election on what Greens were able to do on Prince Edward Island, where they reached Official Opposition status in the 2019 election, by focusing on winnable seats and putting party resources there.

"My best hope is that we would elect at least one Green to the House," she said. "Optimally, it would be more so. My best hope would be that we would actually have a caucus of, say, five after the election.

"And if we succeeded in electing one, I would be quite happy with that result." 

Alexander said the party has "significant" support in Truro area, "dynamic" candidates in central Halifax, and "early, ongoing support" in the Kentville-Wolfville area.

Although McNeil led his party to a second majority win in 2017, his resignation and that of former cabinet colleague Margaret Miller has pushed the Liberals into minority status at Province House. Rather than face that prospect, most political watchers believe Rankin will go to the polls this summer or early fall at the latest.

By law, the House must be recalled twice a year, in the spring and again in the fall.