Q12. When is the next election?

It’s up to the premier, but can’t be later than May 2022


A12. The premier is the one who calls an election, so only he knows. The next election can’t be later than May 2022. It will likely be held sometime in 2021.

The last Nova Scotia provincial election was in May 2017. Stephen McNeil led the Liberals to a second majority government, so he continues as premier.

According to Canada’s constitution, there can be no more than five years between elections. Therefore the next election must be held no later than May 2022.

Some provinces have legislation that fixes the exact date of the next election. Nova Scotia does not have a fixed-date election law.

The decision to call an election is entirely up to the premier.  Sometimes the premier can be forced to call an election by losing a vote of confidence.  Stephen McNeil leads a majority government, so it is inconceivable that he would lose a vote of confidence.

To call an election, the premier simply has to visit the lieutenant governor, and say “Please call an election.” The lieutenant governor will (except in highly unusual circumstances that don’t apply here) always do what the premier advises him to do.

It is common practice for the premier of a majority government to call an election in the fourth year. In Nova Scotia, that would be 2021. That is the most likely time of the next election, but it could be any month in 2021.

Premier John Buchanan twice called an election after only three years, even though he had a majority government—once in 1981, and again in 1984. He rattled everybody because it was so unusual.

Sometimes a premier does not call an election until the government’s fifth year, but that is usually because he’s pretty sure his party will lose the election. That happened in Nova Scotia in 1993 (previous election 1988) and in 1998 (previous election 1993).

Author: Graham Steele

A former MLA in Nova Scotia, currently Professor of Business Law in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University