Update: Nova Scotians will go to the polls Oct. 8 after N.S. Premier Darrell Dexter’s request to dissolve the legislature.
HALIFAX – Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter was scheduled to make a number of appearances Saturday that look a lot like the start of a provincial election campaign.
Dexter released the NDP’s platform Friday in Halifax, but stopped short of formally calling the election.
Speculation is high that the election will be called for Oct. 8.
Dexter was scheduled to be in Cape Breton for a series of events and Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil was at the Halifax farmers market Saturday morning greeting people.
The NDP is basing its campaign on seven broad commitments that Dexter says would not cost the province more than $34.4 million annually.
Dexter won a majority government in 2009, becoming the first NDP premier in Atlantic Canada.
The platform promises to help families by making things like car seats and strollers exempt from the province’s harmonized sales tax.
“The last election was about change. The next election will be about the future,” Dexter said in releasing the party’s promises.
Both opposition leaders cast doubt Friday on the NDP’s ability to maintain a balanced budget forecasted for the 2013-14 fiscal year if it is promising tax cuts and increased spending.
“There’s a big page missing and that’s the one with all the details around the costing,” said McNeil.
He said with government spending announcements over the summer that would cost almost $54 million and now the platform promises, the province is likely looking at a deficit for this fiscal year.
“If the premier is going to make all of these the commitments then he needs to tell Nova Scotians where he’s going to cut,” he added.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie accused Dexter of political gamesmanship by releasing the NDP platform before formally calling an election.
“It is political game playing that really has nothing to do with what the voters want and deserve and more about the NDP trying to manipulate a political result,” he said.
Baillie has promised to bring in legislation fixing election dates. Nova Scotia is the last province in the country without set election dates.
Dexter said the promise to cut the HST on goods the party describes as “family essentials” and keeping home energy bills exempt from the tax would cost an estimated $3.2 million a year. The NDP plans to make more items exempt from the HST, but Dexter said details of those would come during a campaign.
Another $18 million would be set aside annually for various programs, such as improving roads and encouraging the hiring of apprentices, he said.
The NDP holds 31 seats in the legislature, the Liberals 12 and the Tories seven. Two seats are vacant.
When the election is called, it will be fought on a new electoral map that cuts the number of seats in the legislature to 51 from 52.