Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

What's to come on the back half of Nova Scotia's 'sluggish' election campaign

In this instalment of the Election Notebook: The party leaders have sparred in multiple debates and the last of the platform planks have been laid out. What’s left between now and election day?

Platforms are all out but NDP costs are still to come, party leaders will continue to tour

Welcome to CBC's Election Notebook, your source for regular updates and essential news from the campaign trail.

It's Day 21 of Nova Scotia's 31-day provincial election campaign.

The party leaders have sparred in multiple debates and the last of the platform planks have been laid out. What's left between now and election day?

Tom Urbaniak, a professor of political science at Cape Breton University, said the campaign so far has been "somewhat sluggish," but some aspects of the remaining days hold intrigue for him.

Namely, where the leaders spend their time in the days ahead.

"That will signal to me what their internal intelligence is telling them about their prospects."

Urbaniak said it's notable that Liberal Leader Iain Rankin and PC Leader Tim Houston have both made campaign stops in the past several days in ridings last won by other parties. He said it suggests both men believe they can knock off their competition and pick up seats in some parts of the province.

The Halifax area is the most dense part of the province in terms of voters and electoral districts, so it's no surprise all three major party leaders have spent significant amounts of time in the municipality throughout the campaign. But they've also branched out to most corners of the province. 

Urbaniak said he's also waiting for the New Democrats to round out their platform with dollar figures.

NDP costed platform still to come

The PCs included costs in their platform immediately and the Liberals added cost details to their platform this week. The NDP released a 60-page platform document early in the campaign and have since released cost estimates for a few items, but not all.

"If I were advising [the NDP] I would say to put that out very soon because of course people are voting already," said Urbaniak. 

NDP leader Gary Burrill speaking to reporters Thursday in Halifax. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Early voting numbers this year continue to outpace the last election's early voter turnout at a ratio of about three to one. When the polls closed on Wednesday, nearly 32,000 voters had either cast their ballots or asked for a write-in ballot. At the same point in 2017 a little more than 11,000 early votes were in.

Erin Crandall, an associate professor of politics at Acadia University, chalked that up to Elections Nova Scotia's efforts to promote early voting and make it accessible this year. But whether early numbers are an indication of overall voter turnout is yet to be determined. Crandall said she'll be watching the numbers closely. 

"It will be interesting to see what the voter turnout is for this election, because we have had a downward trend in terms of voter turnout in Nova Scotia," she said.

Just 53 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2017.

Crandall echoed Urbaniak regarding the sluggishness of the campaign, calling it "remarkably unremarkable." But she said she doesn't think it's a sign of widespread indifference, at least not among those running.

Sound Off: Election Edition - Episode 3

1 year ago
Duration 4:13
Party platforms, planks and political positions are coming into focus. In some cases, there are some interesting role reversals.

"For me and the riding that I'm in, what I see is a really active local campaign and I see that in the ridings around me," Crandall said, referring to the trio of "Kings" ridings in the Annapolis Valley — Kings North, Kings South and Kings West.

"I don't know if that's going to result in close election results — it's a really small sample size — but what that does tell me is people are not sleeping through this election. There is real campaigning, real boots on the ground happening around here."

Meanwhile, the party leaders continue to push their party messages. The NDP and PCs have spent much time this campaign touting their healthcare platforms, which they continued to do Thursday.

Hammering on healthcare

The NDP hosted an event Thursday morning at the home of Anne MacPhee, whose husband died while he waited more than 30 minutes for an ambulance. Leader Gary Burrill used MacPhee's story as a jumping off point to reiterate his party's promise to improve the healthcare system.

He highlighted the NDP's plans to reduce mental health wait times, build more long-term care beds, hire more physician assistants and open more collaborative care emergency centres with the aim of keeping more ambulances on the road.

PC leader Tim Houston speaking to reporters Thursday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The Progressive Conservatives released a new election ad Thursday focused on the doctor shortage.

It features leader Tim Houston picking up an iPhone and showing that he's on hold with "Doctor Waitlist." 

The voice of the operator says "Hello, your call is important to us. Please continue to wait."

Houston responds to the camera, "No, we're not waiting," and goes on to say the Liberals have neglected the healthcare file, but his party won't.

The ad came out the same day as an update from the Nova Scotia health authority with the latest figures from the registry of people waiting for a primary care provider. The list now tops 71,000, or about seven per cent of the province. The number of people on the registry had been dropping prior to the pandemic.

Houston, Burrill and Rankin participated in a debate hosted by CTV Thursday, which is expected to be the last planned meeting of the three men before election day on Aug. 17.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin speaking at a campaign event in July. (Robert Short/CBC)

How to vote

Check whether you are registered to vote with Elections Nova Scotia.

Once registered, you can vote in advance of election day by requesting a mail-in ballot or by visiting a returning office or advance polling station.

On election day, polling stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. AT.

More information on voting is available from


Taryn Grant


Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at