Election 2011 is still brand new, but there is a lot to learn about how the parties see Halifax and Nova Scotia, and what could be in store for the municipality.
Nova Scotian politicians have never been that far removed from their electorate. People expect that they will get a call back if they want to talk to their elected representative . Technology has made what little distance there was shrink even more, and sometimes the results are amazing.
All the candidates have websites, and many have twitter and facebook. Successful social media strategy, especially on twitter, means real, engaging and authentic communication either from the candidate or someone who fakes it really well.
I put together this list of web resources for the ridings in HRM, starting the day the election was called, and updated almost every day. The response has been overwhelming, with thousands of people visiting the first two days.
Putting together a list like this means I have looked at every twitter feed, every facebook and every webpage for the candidates in HRM. I have a lot of observations!
First is, HRM is really big. Even a veteran political watcher like myself was kind of shocked to realize “Central Nova and Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit are in HRM?” It has never really sunk in that Peter MacKay is an HRM politician, but that is in fact the case (he does not have twitter).
I like how game the small parties are. Green Party is determined to run someone everywhere, and has been quick to email me and get names and twitter feeds on line. The leader of the Christian Heritage Party is running in Cumberland/Colchester (he does not have twitter.)
What was most interesting is the Conservatives appear to have given up on HRM. Halifax, Halifax West, Sackville Eastern Shore, and Dartmouth all had nominations that seem uncommitted, weak or last minute.
Wanda Webber has been nominated for some time, and I have seen signs up, but her website still doesn’t work. George Nikolaou, Adam Mimnaugh were both nominated right around the day the writ dropped, Adam’s website is still not up. Bruce Pretty has stepped up in Halifax West to fill the hole left by Peter Kelly’s rumored run for MP being squelched by the Concert Scandal, and he is all but invisible online.
It does not appear that Harper’s Conservatives are going to invest a lot of time here, now that Kelly is out. This turns urban Halifax effectively into a series of two way races between the Liberals and NDP.
I think this is unfortunate for the NDP, especially in Halifax West. The soft centre/right vote that might have gone for Kelly is now going to go for Regan, making the NDPer Gregor Ash’s job that much harder. It seems unlikely that Gregor, a good man and friend, will defeat incumbent Geoff Regan without that serious vote splitting.
I may be wrong though. People may feel free to vote NDP knowing that abandoning the Liberals can’t accidently result in a Conservative “coming up the middle” as it were.
The other ridings to watch are Dartmouth, Halifax and interestingly according to the Globe and Mail, South Shore St Margaret’s.
In Halifax, Megan Leslie, named best rookie MP by MacLean’s in 2009, is up against Stan Kutcher (Doctor Kutcher, as all his signs inform us). I would have thought that Megan was absolutely secure, as the riding has been NDP since 1997, but Stan has been campaigning for a year, and he is certainly winning the sign war. To be fair Megan lost the sign war in 2008 and still won by 7000 votes.
In Dartmouth, Mike Savage, son of John Savage and current Liberal incumbant, is up against a strong challenge from former NDP provincial leader Robert Chisholm. Operatives in both parties are insisting that their man has it in the bag, but I think this may be tighter than anyone wants to believe. Nevertheless, current negative feelings toward the provincial NDP government will make it tough for Robert to take out the incumbent.
For some reason, the Globe and Mail says South Shore/St Margaret’s will be close. I don’t see it. Gerald Keddy, the incumbent conservative, won by 900 votes against Gordon Earle last election, with the Liberals coming 4000 behind that. (edit – I pulled stats off of Wikipedia that were incorrect. I have corrected them with stats from CBC Votes 2008. I still think the NS tendency to support the incumbent is strong in this riding, and the Liberal candidate is if anything stronger this time than last, which would only hurt the NDP).
This election sees Gerald vs Gordon II. I don’t think anything new has happened to make the outcome any different, unless the liberal candidate is far weaker than I think. Unless the national party makes a huge mistake that impacts on Gerald Keddy, I suspect this will go blue again in 2011.