Q57. If a budget is introduced, can the government call an election before the budget vote?

An election can be called before a budget is passed

A57. The answer is yes—there can be an election before a budget vote.

In the spring of 2017, there is much speculation about whether the McNeil government will call an election shortly after introducing a budget on Thursday, April 27th. [Postscript: In fact, a general election was called three days after the budget was introduced. Election day is May 30, 2017.]

In principle, there is nothing to stop them from doing so. It is up to the premier to decide when to call an election, and he is free to do it before or after a budget vote.

In 2006, the Progressive Conservative government of Rodney MacDonald introduced a budget and then called an election. In 2009, the MacDonald government was defeated on a confidence vote before the budget could be put to a vote.

If there is a change of government before a budget is approved, the new government will typically wait until the fall sitting of the legislature to introduce a budget. The machinery of government can continue to operate for quite a long time without an approved budget.

Still, the process for approving a budget takes only about two weeks in Nova Scotia. Since the McNeil government has a majority in the legislature, it is a certainty that the budget will be approved if put to a vote. The government may choose to approve the budget that is introduced on April 27th, and then call an election.


Q12. When is the next election?

It’s up to the premier, but can’t be later than October 2018

A12. The 40th Nova Scotia general election will be held on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. This post was written before the election was called.

The premier is the one who calls an election, so only he knows. The next election can’t be later than October 2018. It will likely be held sometime in 2017.

The last Nova Scotia provincial election was in October 2013. Stephen McNeil became the premier, leading a majority Liberal government.

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 October 2018.

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 2017. That is the most likely time of the next election, but it could be any month in 2017.

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).