Jennifer English, Director, Government Relations (Atlantic), Canadian Credit Union Association
Liberal leader Stephen McNeil and his team won a slim majority in Nova Scotia’s general election May 30, taking 27 seats. This is down from the 33 seats the Liberals won in the last general election in 2013, and just one seat over the number required to form a majority.
Key election issues included: healthcare, particularly access to primary care, improved mental health services, and specialist wait times; education and youth retention; and the economy, with a focus on job creation through infrastructure investment and incentives for small business and emerging areas of growth like the craft beer industry. The Liberals’ contentious relationship with public sector unions became a focal point during the campaign, and drove the loss of seats in union-strong Cape Breton Island.
The Progressive Conservatives, led by former Credit Union Atlantic (CUA) CEO Jaime Baillie, won 17 seats, up from 11. Rookie NDP leader Gary Burrill won his own seat and improved his party’s standing from five to seven.
McNeil’s speech struck a conciliatory tone, signaling a willingness to work with Baillie and Burrill on healthcare and improving conditions to keep young Nova Scotians in the province. In post-speech interviews, he emphasized his plan to deliver the budget introduced just before calling the provincial election.
One potentially concerning indicator is the significant drop in voter turnout, with preliminary results showing a drop from 58 per cent in 2013 to just 43 per cent in 2017. On a more positive note, 17 women were elected to the legislature, which represents 33 per cent of the seats.
Implications for credit unions
The election of a Liberal majority with several platform commitments focused on small business provides an opportunity to demonstrate strong support for the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program. Delivered exclusively by credit unions, the Loan Guarantee Program is a unique joint initiative of the Province of Nova Scotia, Atlantic Central, local participating credit unions, and the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council that provides financing up to $500,000 in the form of term loans, working capital and lines of credit to start or expand a small business.
The Province has conducted a review of the program to determine whether the funds would be better directed to export initiatives, despite the success of the current structure.
CCUA will send letters of congratulations to all MLAs and take the opportunity to advocate for the potentially at-risk Small Business Loan Guarantee Program.