Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Criticism lobbed from Liberals to PCs, NDP and back again

In this instalment of the Election Notebook: Liberal candidate Labi Kousoulis laid out his critiques of the NDP and PC economic platforms on Tuesday, and those parties bit back.

Attacking opponents late in the campaign can be a sign things aren't going as planned

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

It's Day 26 of Nova Scotia's 31-day provincial election campaign.

The spotlight shifted from Liberal Leader Iain Rankin to his former leadership rival Labi Kousoulis on Tuesday.

While Rankin headed to Cape Breton to announce a bridge replacement project in the riding of Richmond and to attend a barbecue with Victoria-The Lakes candidate Nadine Bernard in Eskasoni, Kousoulis met with reporters to offer his critique of the PC and NDP platforms.

Kousoulis, who was named finance minister earlier this year, focused most of his attack on the plan being put forward by the Progressive Conservatives, suggesting they haven't been upfront about some of their platform costs, notably the $200-million promise to give companies half their corporate taxes back if they use the money to increase wages.

Kousoulis doesn't believe the Tories' claim that the revenue loss for the province will be offset by extra tax money returned as a result of higher personal incomes and more spending by those who see a salary bump.

"That makes no sense," said Kousoulis.

Labi Kousoulis is the Liberal candidate for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island and was appointed by Liberal Leader Iain Rankin to the post of finance minister. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

It's not the first time the provincial Liberals have used this tactic in an election campaign. 

In 1998, then finance minister Bill Gillis, who was not running for re-election, offered his criticism of the PC platform. It was an unsuccessful attempt to bolster a faltering campaign that saw the Liberals barely hang onto power.

When questioned by reporters Tuesday, Kousoulis denied his sudden centre stage performance was a sign of trouble.

He told reporters he was hearing nothing but positive comments on the doorstep.

"It's going well," he said. "I'm getting great responses at the door. Very positive."

Sound Off: Election Edition - Episode 3

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

The opposing parties lobbed criticism right back at the Liberals, directing some squarely at Kousoulis.

PC Leader Tim Houston told reporters he would be interested in hearing Kousoulis's "spin," but he said the party's economic platform could stand up to any scrutiny.

"I'm very proud of that plan. We had two of the leading economists in the country comment on how innovative the plan is," he said.

When they released their platform, the Tories advertised endorsements from Jack Mintz, a fellow at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, and Donald Savoie, a professor of public administration at the Université de Moncton in New Brunswick.

Houston said having Kousoulis speak about the other parties' platforms indicated that Rankin "doesn't have the confidence or ability to do it himself."

From left to right: PC Party of Nova Scotia Leader Tim Houston, Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill, and Nova Scotia Liberal Party Leader Iain Rankin. (CBC)

The New Democrats also responded, issuing a news release addressed to Kousoulis that questioned the Liberals' position on rent control (they do not intend to extend it beyond the state of emergency) and their plan to rein in spending next year by $209 million, among other familiar NDP critiques of the Liberal party.

"People can't afford four more years of Labi and the Liberals," said the release.

The NDP signed off with, "Oh, final question, where's Iain?"

Former Liberal backs NDP 

The NDP scored an unlikely endorsement on Tuesday: a former Nova Scotia Liberal Party candidate.

Jo-Ann Grant describes herself as a lifelong Liberal. She ran for the party in 2009 in Chester-St. Margarets, finishing third.

But Grant said during an event with NDP Leader Gary Burrill on Tuesday that she no longer feels the party reflects her values and that she will instead be voting NDP.

She said the deciding factor was the way the Liberals have handled the potential sale of Owls Head provincial park to a private developer so the Crown land can be turned into golf courses.

"The more I heard and the more I read, I became quite dismayed about it and realized that since they were taking this firm position of not backing down on the [potential] sale, that I could no longer support the Liberal Party," said Grant.

Burrill said Grant's concern about Owls Head is something he and his fellow candidates have heard a lot about on the doorstep.

"I think part of the background for this is it speaks to what is the real sincerity of what the Rankin Liberals have to say about the environment," he said.

"I think people have a sense that the climate change emergency is not just a matter of saying the right things; it's of deeply having a sense of the urgency of the matter and then moving forward to do the right things."

As he has previously, Burrill pledged that an NDP government would end the negotiations related to a potential sale of Owls Head and protect the land.

'You don't get to use me like that'

Disability rights advocate Vicky Levack said the Liberals misrepresented her encounter with Rankin over the weekend.

Levack and others crashed a campaign event on Sunday to voice their frustration with the government's slow progress on phasing out the use of institutional housing for people with disabilities and replacing it with small option homes.

Rankin spoke to Levack briefly and left the event without taking questions from reporters. Later that day, his campaign team issued a news release saying he "met" with Levack and "listened to her concerns over housing for disabled and intellectually challenged Nova Scotians."

Vicky Levack and supporters protesting at a Liberal campaign event on Sunday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The news release quotes Rankin saying, "Thank you to Vicky for raising the issue. We committed more funding in our most recent budget. We have to do better, and we will."

Rankin tweeted a similar message along with a photo of Levack speaking to him at the campaign event.

Levack told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Tuesday that when she saw the tweet, she thought, "Oh, no ... you don't get to use me like that."

Levack, 30, has cerebral palsy and lives in a nursing home — a setting that she says is not appropriate for people with disabilities. 

"They're like prisons … they're really nice prisons, but they're prisons nonetheless," she said. "We are locked away and completely forgotten about, and I refuse to be forgotten about anymore."

When she raised the issue with Rankin on Sunday, he told her he was proud of her.

"I was really pissed off by that because I found it dismissive and infantilizing," she said.

"I am very often treated like a child in my life due to my disability. Don't do that. That's one of the worst things you can do. I am a grown woman."

Levack said she is a volunteer for Burrill's campaign because the NDP has promised to accelerate the construction of small option homes for people with disabilities. 

How to vote

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

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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

With files from Jean Laroche, Michael Gorman and Information Morning