Friday, October 19, 2012

Nova Scotia municipal elections 2012

Voters in Nova Scotia will be heading to the polls tomorrow (October 20) to elect municipal councils in all of Nova Scotia's 54 municipalities as well as members of Nova Scotia's 8 school boards to be elected for the next four-year term.

Map of Nova Scotia's 54 municipalities

Nova Scotia's municipalities can be divided into 3 types. Regional Municipalities, Towns and Municipal Districts/Counties. Nova Scotia hasn't had any incorporated cities since a series of amalgamations in the 1990s. There are three Regional Municipalities in the province, including the two largest municipalities, Halifax and Cape Breton. These are unlike the Regional Municipalities in Ontario, for example, in that they are are no lower levels of government in those areas. They are quite large in size, having been created out of the former counties that existed in their place. Each of the three regional municipalities are headed by a mayor, elected at-large and have a number of councillors elected from “districts” (usually called wards in other provinces).

The second form of municipalities are towns, which are very small in geographic size compared to the regional municipalities and the counties and municipal districts. There are 30 towns in Nova Scotia. Each are headed by mayors, elected at large and have a number of councillors. 5 towns are divided into districts or wards, while the rest of the towns have their councillors elected at large.

The final form of municipalities are the counties and municipal districts. The only difference between counties and municipal districts are that the municipal districts are generally smaller than the counties, having been created out of counties themselves. However, their form of government is much the same. There are 9 county municipalities in Nova Scotia and 12 municipal districts. All but two of these jurisdictions are headed by wardens, while the remaining 2 (Lunenburg District and Colchester County) are headed by mayors, elected at large. The wardens are elected from among the elected councillors. Each county and municipal district are divided into a number of districts from which their councillors are elected.

Now that I have explained how municipal elections work in Nova Scotia, I will talk about the two main races in the province, in the Halifax Regional Municipality and in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Both councils are seeing a reduction in their size. Halifax has reduced the number of councillors from 23 to 16, while Cape Breton's is being reduced from 16 to 12. Both municipalities are also seeing open races for mayor, as in both cases, the incumbent mayors are retiring.

2008 Halifax Regional Municipality mayoral election - results by district

While the mayoral race is technically open (conservative mayor Peter Kelly is retiring), even with no sitting councillors vying for the job, the result of tomorrow's election is all but a certainty. Former Liberal MP Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour) is running for mayor, and all polls show him way ahead. The last poll taken in September showed Savage at 67%. His nearest rival is retired police man Tom Martin at 15% and businessman and activist Fred Connors at 10%. Martin for the record, managed the mayoral campaign of Sheila Fougere (also a Liberal) in the last mayoral campaign in 2008. She however has endorsed Savage. With the mayoral race a foregone conclusion, much of the interest surrounds some of the district races. The reduction in size of the council has meant a lot of incumbents will be facing off against one another:

Halifax's 16 new electoral districts to be used in this election

In District 1 (Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley), two right leaning incumbents (Barry Dalrymple and Tory Steve Streatch) are going at it against eachother. In District 3 (Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage), two left leaning incumbents hope to win the seat, Bill Karsten and Jackie Barkhouse. In District 6 (Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East), left leaning incumbent Darren Fisher is going up against former NDP MLA Jerry Pye. District 8 (Peninsula North) is also seeing to left leaning incumbents go against each other with Dawn Sloan against Jennifer Watts. District 12 (Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park West) sees incumbent conservative Mary Wile against moderate Reg Rankin. Only one district lacks any incumbents (District 15, Lower Sackville).

Cape Breton
Cape Breton's 12 new electoral districts to be used in this election

Cape Breton's mayoral seat is also open. 12-year incumbent John Morgan is retiring. The candidate who is widely expected to pick up the mayor's seat is former PC MLA Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North). Clarke left the Assembly last year to run for the federal riding of Sydney—Victoria for the Conservatives. He narrowly beat incumbent Liberal MP Mark Eyking. Clarke's main challenger is activist Rankin MacSween. Only 2 districts in Cape Breton will be seeing 2 incumbents facing off against eachother (Districts 6 & 10), while three seats will actually be open (2, 5 & 11). However, in District 11, only one candidate (long time school principal Lowell Cormier) declared, and therefore he has been acclaimed. The incumbent in District 9 was also acclaimed.

Across the province, 10 mayors have been acclaimed, meaning no elections for that position in those municipalities (Clark's Harbour, Digby, Kentville, Mahone Bay, Middleton, Mulgrave, Stewiacke, Trenton, Windsor and Colchester County). In fact, there will be no elections at all in Middleton and Mulgrave, as the entire councils in those towns have been acclaimed. In addition, the race for mayor in Hantsport will be the only one on the ballot, as the entire rest of the council has been acclaimed in that town.

School board
I wont get much into detail about the school board elections, just to note that there are 7 English school boards across the province and one French one spanning the entire province. Each school board is divided into a number of electoral districts. But, perhaps the most interesting thing about the races are that in the 7 English board races, there are seats reserved for “African Nova Scotians”. That is, if you're Black in Nova Scotia or have children that are, you get to vote for a special African Nova Scotian seat in whatever school board you live in. This is true for all 7 boards, not just the Halifax School Board (most Black African Nova Scotians live in the Halifax area).

Polls close at 7pm Atlantic time (6pm Eastern).


  1. Excellent post. One small quibble though. Cecil Clarke ran for parliament in Sydney Victoria, not Cape Breton Canso.

  2. Thanks. I always make some bad mistake somewhere :p

  3. And Eyking beat Clarke by 765 votes.