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On election’s eve, indecision prevails for Nova Scotia voters

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Darrell Dexter makes a campaign stop at the Seaside Shanty restaurant in Chester Basin, N.S., on Oct. 7, 2013.

ANDREW VAUGHAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

After 31 days of politics and promises, Barb Nickerson is struggling with how she will vote in Nova Scotia's provincial election – and the Wolfville resident is not alone.

A new poll released on Monday – the eve of Tuesday's vote – shows 25 per cent of the electorate is still undecided.

"I just really don't know. I think this is the first election … I really don't know," Ms. Nickerson said in a telephone interview on Monday.

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Winning over the undecided was a key strategy of all three parties in the last few hours of the campaign.

The NDP's Darrell Dexter, who is hoping for a second term after forming government in 2009 – and who polls indicate is running behind the Liberals – on Monday asked undecided voters if it is "worth the risk of turning backwards to 1999," a reference to the last time the Liberals were in government.

Ms. Nickerson's dilemma is that the three parties' promises seem indistinguishable.

"Where is the money coming from?" she wonders. She has not heard the answer.

But she does not want to lose her vote, so she expects she will make her decision in the polling booth.

The undecided is not the only factor parties will weigh on Tuesday. Turnout has been dropping steadily, with 65 per cent of voters casting ballots in 2003 compared to only 58 per cent in 2009. With that in mind, advance voting was made easier for this election – for example, people with mobility issues could vote at home and accommodations were made for university students.

Elections Nova Scotia reported on Monday that 100,447 people voted in advance polls, which is 66 per cent more than in 2009. The province has 700,000 eligible voters.

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But do not read anything into the higher pre-vote turnout, said Greg Lyle of Innovative Research Group, a public research firm in Toronto. He said it is simply a function of how much more effective parties are now in getting out the vote and changes the provincial government has made to make advance voting easier. Traditionally, a robust advance poll does not translate into a general likelihood for a higher turnout on election day, he added.

Weather can be a factor – and rain is forecast for Tuesday. The incumbent NDP is hoping inclement weather will play against voters who are leaning Liberal but may believe their vote is unnecessary because polls have given the party such a strong lead. One poll is now showing the NDP in a fight for second place with the Progressive Conservatives.

The leaders left nothing to chance, blitzing the province in the last days. Political strategists are finding the electorate volatile, with more people making up their minds in the final weekend.

Where the leaders go usually indicates where they need to shore up their strength. Mr. McNeil spent the weekend visiting at least 35 of the 51 ridings on the weekend, and spent early Monday in ridings in Halifax, where he's fighting the NDP. Mr. Dexter also concentrated on ridings the New Democrats believe they can win along the south shore.

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie, who has focused on ridings outside of Halifax, was in Truro on Monday at the Stanfield's plant, which makes underwear. Mr. Baillie, who likes to remind voters he is a chartered accountant and could be trusted to run the provincial economy, deviated from his script to share some personal information: "Since I was a little boy, I've never worn any other product than Stanfield's. In fact, I'm wearing my Stanfield's today. As we like to say in Truro, nothing comes between me and my Stanfield's."

With a report from The Canadian Press

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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