Houston no longer wedded to fixed election date his government set in 2021

Tim Houston is no longer committed to the fixed election date he championed and his party passed as its first law in government.

On Wednesday, asked by a reporter when the next provincial election would be, the premier responded, "The election will be when the election is."

"At some point in time, it'll be time to go to the people and ask them how they want to move the province forward," said Houston. "When that time is here, there'll be an election."

When he'd been asked previously, Houston had pointed to the fixed election date of July 15, 2025.

Pressed Wednesday on whether a vote could be held before that date, Houston replied, "It could be."

'Determined by circumstances' 

"It'll be determined on the circumstances," he said. "I think it's really important that people have their say."

Later he went a step further, suggesting the fixed election date might be an impediment to the wishes of Nova Scotians.

"When it becomes time for the people to have their say, I think it would be pretty selfish for me to say, 'No, you have to wait because it doesn't suit the political legislation that was passed,'" said Houston.

That's a far cry from what the premier told the House on Oct. 14, 2021 — the day he led off debate on Bill 1, the Elections Act.

"We're listening to Nova Scotians and we are keeping a campaign commitment that we made," Houston said during second reading of the proposed law. "The amendments to the Elections Act will establish fixed provincial general election dates every four years in this province.

"That's a good thing. It will bring predictability to our elections. And our elections, of course, are the cornerstone of our democracy."

Elections N.S. recommended fixed dates

During his speech, Houston chided the opposition parties for failing to act on repeat recommendations put forward by Elections Nova Scotia for a fixed election date.

"Former governments have chosen not to act upon the request of Elections Nova Scotia, but this government won't look the other way," he said at the time. "We're going to walk the walk."

The opposition parties later tried to slow down passage of the bill after it was roundly criticized by those who spoke at the law amendments committee. Undeterred by those opinions and the delay tactics used by opposition members, the government used its majority to turn the bill into law.

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill speaks to reporters on Thursday in Halifax.
Liberal Leader Zach Churchill questioned why Houston appears to be backtracking on the first law the PCs passed as a government. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill called the premier's suggestion Wednesday that voters will decide the next election date "weird" and "ridiculous."

"It was nonsensical," said Churchill. "The fact is that he controls when an election happens."

"His first law that he passed in Nova Scotia was a fixed election date," he continued. "So if that is a piece of legislation that he doesn't come through on, what are we to trust with what he says?"

NDP Leader Claudia Chender called Houston's assertions that he would call an election at the behest of Nova Scotians "disingenuous."

"When the premier decides to go to the polls will have nothing to do with when Nova Scotians should have a voice, and everything to do with when he thinks he can win," said Chender.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender's part has long called for the creation of a mental health crisis response team.
NDP Leader Claudia Chender said if Houston calls for an early election, it will be to benefit himself and his party, (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Speculation about a possible early election call has been heating up as a result of a flurry of nomination meetings by the PC Party of Nova Scotia.