What did the NDP do to deserve its electoral fate?

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The question is why. Why — if you believe the polls — is Darrell Dexter’s NDP government heading for an ignominious defeat?

Nova Scotia’s first-ever NDP government was hardly a disaster. It succeeded a Tory government that had careened out of fiscal control, stumbled into one of the world’s worst economic meltdowns, got sideswiped by the collapse of the traditionally vital pulp and paper industry, and still managed to bring the books into balance by the end of its mandate.

Its accomplishments need to be understood in that context. None were major; not all were minor. Its innovative collaborative health care centres offer a model for efficient future rural health care delivery.

We won’t know for decades if some of its biggest-ticket and most controversial initiatives — the $260-million-forgivable-if-it-creates-4,000-jobs Irving loan to grease the $35 billion shipbuilding contract and the $1.52-billion Maritime Link hydroelectric project — were wise investments. But those deals at least showed a government thinking long term.

So why do Nova Scotians now seem so eager to kick them to history’s dustbin?

For starters, Nova Scotians had unrealistically high, often contradictory expectations for our first-ever NDP government. Many expectations — the NDP would govern differently — were self-created, the wounds that followed self-inflicted.

The government botched the MLA expenses scandal, which involved members of all parties and incidents before the NDP took office. But Darrell Dexter came across as prickly, defensive, hardly a practitioner of new politics. By the time the NDP brought in tighter, more transparent rules, they’d already squandered their hard-earned “we’ll govern differently” currency.

That may explain why critics inside and outside the party choose to focus more on what the government did they disagree with than what they would likely see as positive accomplishments. Business, for example, focuses on first-contract legislation they despise while ignoring cuts to corporate income taxes they champion. For many workers, it is the opposite. And, while environmentalists targeted the NDP’s record on the environment, they give the party little credit for its nation-leading efforts to protect the province’s wilderness areas.

In the end, this parsing of good and bad probably doesn’t matter. Political campaigns have a life of their own. The universe unfolds. We shall see what tomorrow — and the next days — bring.

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Copyright 2013 Stephen Kimber, Website
  1. you make some good points, however I think people were just fed up paying the highest taxes in the land. If you remember the last election the NDP campaigned on not raising taxes, one of the first things they did was raise the sales tax to 15%. If they had delayed it a while, it might have soften the blow. You made mention of the government hand outs, which I do agree it is needed esp.in trying to attract jobs to NS, but giving 8 million to build a golf course was a bit much. The NDP have to realize that in politics it is not just getting voted in as a government, but how you govern, because peoples memories are short, it is what have you done for me lately…

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  2. I am constantly perplexed by the ephemeral nature of public will. Many people talk about democracy. Few practice it. I think the reason this happens is that, as a collective, we are still fairly immature and self centered. Yes there are great individuals among us, but they are far outnumbered by those who think they have better things to do. Many simply will not vote at all because they think it is a waste of their time. Some of those are the same ones who say the 99% is being screwed over by the 1% and the whole “democratic” parliamentary system and it’s attendant bureaucracy is a sham. I, for one, will vote and I think amazing things will happen here if all people turn up to vote. We are relatively lucky to be living here rather than in some place where we would be shot for organizing a community meeting. I urge everyone to take the time to read all the platforms and consider each one honestly. Then vote for what resonates best with your values. Thanks to people like Stephen, we at least have the opportunity to be thoughtful about it.

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