In Brief: AIMS President Brian Lee Crowley was invited by the Globe and Mail to provide comment on the election of Nova Scotia’s first NDP government. His response is a no holds barred critique of the province’s ‘old’ political parties.

by Brian Lee Crowley

If Nova Scotians voted massively on Tuesday, it was to defeat rather than to elect a government.

As something of a connoisseur of governments I can say, without fear of contradiction, that Rodney MacDonald ran one of the worst governments it has ever been my misfortune to be subjected to. The Conservatives were by turns incompetent, whiny, dishonest, defensive and prone to petty patronage to shore up their rural base. They cared not a whit for the problems of the city in which a major share of the population lives. They were bereft of ideas. It was not pretty.

The predictable result was that Nova Scotians stopped listening to them, and the only question then was who to put in their place.

The Liberals were so politically inept the last time they were in office that, although they creditably turned the province’s finances around, they managed to offend nearly everyone by doing so. Former Liberal premier John Savage thus gave the NDP their first real breakthrough, in 1998, since the Tories were still rightly in the doghouse after the excesses of John Buchanan and therefore unelectable.

The NDP’s subsequent slow but steady rise was stopped for a time by the gentlemanly and incorruptible Conservative premier John Hamm, but the desire for a break with the incompetence and venality of the two old parties had entered the bloodstream of Nova Scotians. What happened this week was that the voters’ disgust with those who had exercised power in the past was finally strong enough to overwhelm their native conservatism and fear of the damage that might be wrought by a party and a premier unused to the discipline of power.

Premier-elect Darrell Dexter played his hand skillfully to tip that balance. He promised balanced budgets (at least until the morning after the election, when much water was added to his fiscally responsible wine), no new taxes and cautious government.

If he can control the extremists and prima donnas in his caucus and party, he may well create a dynasty of modest and competent government, like his prairie NDP cousins renowned for what was once called “square socialism.” If not, he will be the NDP’s next Bob Rae. It is too early to say which it will be. Watch this space.