July 15, 2016 6:54 pm

Nova Scotia political parties in race to be election ready

Premier-designate Stephen McNeil arrives at the legislature in Halifax on Oct. 9, 2013. Less than three years into his mandate rumours are rampant that he will call a snap fall election.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil isn’t saying whether he’ll call an early election, but his party says it plans to be ready for one by September.

McNeil told reporters Thursday that he hasn’t “given a whole lot of thought” to an election. At the same time, he says he is preparing for a general election “sometime in the future.”

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The Liberals won a landslide victory on October 8, 2013, meaning McNeil doesn’t have to call an election until 2018, but he’s not shutting down rampant speculation that he’ll trigger an election much sooner.

The speculation is forcing all three major political parties to kick start their election machines. There are two key numbers the parties have their eyes on: 51 and $1.73 million.

51 ridings

Each of the three main parties says its goal is to have a full slate of candidates as possible when the writ is dropped. So far the Liberals are far outpacing their rivals in nominating candidates.

The Liberals have nominated candidates for 24 of the province’s 51 ridings, according to Liberal party executive director Mike Mercer. That leaves 27 candidates left to nominate by September if the party is to meet its self-imposed deadline.

According to the party’s website there are five more nominations planned in July and one in August.

The Progressive Conservatives have nominated 14 candidates so far and have another four nominations open, according to spokesperson Angie Zinck.

Meanwhile, the NDP have nominated one candidate and have two other nomination meetings scheduled in July. Leader Gary Burrill says the party will be ready when the election is called, but he hasn’t set a goal for when he wants all candidates to be nominated.

“That will be done in [good] time and we’ll have a slate of candidates in order,” he said.

$1.73 million spending limit

In the 2013 election the spending limit for parties running candidates in every riding was $1.73 million, Elections Nova Scotia assistant chief electoral officer Peter Gzowski said. The limit is expected to go up because it is based in part on population numbers.

In this measure the Liberals are also outpacing the opposition.

The latest information filed with Elections Nova Scotia shows the Liberals have raised $1.81 million in the last three years, compared to $1.36 million for the NDP and $947,512 for the Progressive Conservatives.

Parties have to report fundraising annually to Elections Nova Scotia, so it’s not clear how each party has fared so far in 2016. However, Tory leader Jamie Baillie says his party is picking up steam.

“We have really ramped that up in the last year and the results you’re talking about are really old news,” Baillie said.

Elections Nova Scotia says it will be ready for a general election as early as September 1, 2016.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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