Electoral reform may not be top-of-mind for most Nova Scotia voters, but at least two parties are proposing significant changes to how elections are run in the province.
The Sidebar reached out to the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, NDP, and Greens to see where they stand on fixed election dates, proportional representation, and other possible reforms.
The Greens agreed to an interview, the NDP provided a written statement, and the Liberals and PCs did not respond.
Fixed election dates
Asked about Nova Scotia being the only province in the country without fixed election dates, both the NDP and Greens said they aim to change that.
“The NDP will introduce fixed election dates in Nova Scotia,” the New Democrats said in their written statement.
“We’re very supportive of fixed election dates,” Noah Hollis, Green Party candidate in Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, said on behalf of his party. “It gives voters more stability and more trust in the electoral process.”
Fixed election dates also make it easier for more people to participate as candidates, Hollis said.
On the topic of the first-past-the-post system and alternatives such as proportional representation, both parties expressed a desire for change.
The NDP would create a Democratic Renewal Commission “to address low voter turnout by conducting broad-based public consultation on implementing proportional representation and studying other initiatives to promote voter participation,” the party said.
Asked about the Greens’ position, Hollis said: “It’s rooted in Green Party values to move away from first-past-the-post towards more proportional representation.”
The Greens are calling for the implementation of a proportional representation system and a referendum on it after two election cycles or eight years, whichever is longer.
Hollis said proportional representation would allow Nova Scotians to vote for their beliefs without compromise or undue political rancour.
“First-past-the-post automatically creates super-aggressive partisanship and forces people to (consider) strategic voting,” he said. “They have to vote for the mediocre party to keep out the ‘bad’ party.”
Proportional representation would also help smaller parties like the Greens gain entry into the legislature, Hollis said. “Once you get one MLA, the party is able to get much more exposure in the mainstream.”
Both the NDP and Greens said they are in favour of lowering the voting age to 16, making election dates public holidays, and making voter registration easier.
The NDP said it would also “consult with communities about restoring elected school boards, and would establish a school construction process that is transparent and accountable to the local community.”
“The NDP will respect workplace democracy, encourage unionization, and respect free and fair collective bargaining,” the party said in its written statement. “An NDP government would also implement a proper legislative calendar, so that the provincial government cannot use its control over the legislature to prevent committee hearings and shut down debate.”
Meanwhile, the Greens propose dramatically reducing the political contribution limit in Nova Scotia, which at $5,000 is tied for the highest in the country.
“Green MLAs would drastically lower that figure,” Hollis said. “We would strive to be the lowest in the country and to be competitive with other global jurisdictions, though we do not have a set limit proposed. We believe political parties rely too heavily on large-dollar donors, rather than continuously engaging new small-dollar donors.”