Forget this year’s faux feints and fevered fantasies. Two thousand and thirteen will be the year we get to pass electoral judgment on the government of Darrell Dexter.
Will we decide, on balance and measured against his less-than-stellar competition, that Dexter has earned a second majority term? Or will we, seeing more potential than performance in the past four years, rein him in, giving Dexter a second minority-government chance to make a better first impression? Or will we decide electing a first-ever NDP government was as historic a mistake as it was a milestone, and consign it to history’s dustbin?
Except for the most rabid of partisans—the my-party-right-or-wrong NDPers and their sky-is-falling-socialist-hordes counterparts—the choice will not be easy.
There are too many intriguing issues for one column but let’s start with economics.
The NDP inherited a fiscal mess mostly of its predecessor’s making, a global economic meltdown beyond its control and, worst, the ticking demographic time bomb of an aging, under-educated population.
None of those big-picture problems could have been overcome in a single electoral term by any party.
The NDP’s signature fiscal accomplishment—presuming they can pull it off—will be to have brought the province’s books back to balance in four years without completely devastating a precarious economy. No mean feat.
But the trick for the government now will be to convince its traditional base those against-the-grain sacrifices were necessary to allow for future social investment while reassuring those independents who voted for it in 2009 that that doesn’t mean a return to runaway spending.
The NDP’s broader economic development strategy has been the doomed-to-disappointment, tried-and-failed strategy Nova Scotia governments have touted since the days of Robert Stanfield: Dream big—and pray. Daewoo, IBM, Cooke Aquaculture, Irving Shipbuilding, the Lower Churchill… Throw the Hail-Stanfield pass…
The good news is the government has coupled those gambles with investments in training that—should they pay off—will keep more young people in the province. The bad news is that most of the bets will not pay off—and the government will have sacrificed other significant assets (gobs of public money, the environment) in the process.
No easy choices indeed. Let the campaigning begin. Happy New Year!