You can't accuse the McNeil Liberals of trying to buy their way to victory in the next provincial election, scheduled for 2021. Indeed, the exact opposite might be the case. They seem to be prepared to starve the electoral system to death.
In order to begin the preparations for the next vote, Elections Nova Scotia requested an immediate budgetary increase of more than a half million dollars as well as asking for almost five times that amount in the next fiscal year. The agency which oversees all provincial and municipal elections in the province says the money is needed to be “election ready” by April 2021.
This election readiness preparation would include such things as hiring and training returning officers, poll clerks and the like. These positions are integral to the efficient running of an election and they must be properly trained as the recent debacle in New Brunswick has shown.
It took almost a year for court proceedings to finally resolve the outcome of the vote in Saint John Harbour riding. Testimony at the trial raised several issues about the competence of the riding Returning Officer and of the provincial Training Officer for Elections New Brunswick. The training officer actually resigned before he could be fired from his position.
The head of Elections Nova Scotia wants to be proactive in order to avoid any similar problems here. It was his goal to be ready for an election by April 2020 but lack of funding has set that objective back a year, and the McNeil government is still refusing to provide the funds requested to meet the 2021 deadline. The head of Elections Nova Scotia says the lack of funds risks jeopardizing the integrity of the next election.
Nova Scotia is the only province which currently doesn't have a fixed election date, which makes the need for election preparedness even more important given that the writ can be dropped anytime the Premier wants.
It's time to pay up Mr. Premier! Our democracy depends on this funding.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister who lives in Springhill.