NEWS
05/29/2017 12:08 EDT | Updated 06/01/2017 12:28 EDT

Nova Scotia party leaders make push in provincial campaign's final hours

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil covered hundreds of kilometres Monday in his final push to win back-to-back majorities, as the other major party leaders again fixated on health care in a bid to oust him Tuesday.

Tory Leader Jamie Baillie spent much of Monday in the Halifax suburbs, and told a health care rally in Dartmouth that the province is facing a health care crisis that needs an urgent response.

Baillie — surrounded by a few dozen supporters clad in Tory baseball caps and T-shirts — said Liberal neglect has left about 100,000 people without a family doctor, and services for mental health need to improve.

"He says there is no crisis. He is wrong. We know there is a crisis," said Baillie, who will be in Springhill when the polls close on Tuesday evening.

"Stephen McNeil may have his head in the sand about health care but we, as Progressive Conservatives, we hold our heads up high and tell people we can do so much better than this."

NDP Leader Gary Burrill started the day in Sydney, but spent most of it in Halifax and its suburbs. He said he will measure his party's success by a majority government with 26 New Democrat members of the legislature — which would be a significant leap for the third place party.

Burrill gave his concluding news conference outside a family medicine clinic in Halifax, saying during the campaign the main message he heard from Nova Scotians is they're in need of family doctors and other improvements to the health system.

"In every part of the province you hear people speak about the need ... in their family for a doctor, about the need of someone in their family for a nursing home," said Burrill, who is attempting to oust a Liberal incumbent in the Halifax Chebucto riding.

However, Burrill faced criticism during the campaign for projecting close to $1 billion in deficits over the next four years for new spending.

"We have to wait and see what happens tomorrow. We have the advantage of looking the province squarely in the eye and telling our people the truth: there is no way forward without making these investments," he said.

"I think there was an advantage to a clear-eyed appraisal of where we are."

McNeil, who ranged from Port Hood to Amherst Monday, defended his record, saying his government has worked to improve the medical system. He said his party has laid out a substantive platform to ensure the progress continues.

"We're the only party that has laid out a real vision about how we can deal with health care," said McNeil in a phone interview as he travelled to Oxford.

McNeil is hoping to do what no other leader has since 1988 — win consecutive majority governments.

"We believe there's a majority government out there and we've been working hard to achieve that," said McNeil, who will be in his hometown of Bridgetown to watch the results Tuesday.

At dissolution, the Liberals held 34 seats in the 51-seat legislature, the Progressive Conservatives had 10 and the NDP 5. There was one Independent and one seat was vacant.

Meanwhile, a Mainstreet/iPolitics poll released Monday suggested the three main parties were in about the same positions as when the campaign started, with McNeil's Liberals edging up slightly.

Among decided and leaning voters, the poll suggested the Liberals were at 41 per cent, the Tories were down a point to 33 per cent and the New Democrats also dipped slightly to 22 per cent.

The poll of 1,200 people was done Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.81 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. That means Liberal support could range between 38 and 44 per cent, the Tories could have between 30 and 36 per cent support and the NDP between 19 and 25 per cent support.

Mainstreet Research president Quito Maggi said the numbers suggest the Liberals are leading in much of the province, including the greater Halifax area.

— With files from Michael Tutton.