2003 Nova Scotia General Election

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Jul 1, 2003

On August 05, 2003, Nova Scotia voters returned the provincial Progressive Conservative Party and Premier John Hamm to government, but this time with only minority status. Consequently, the governing PC Party will be forced to work with other parties in the provincial legislature in order to pass government legislation and initiatives. This article provides a summary of the 2003 Nova Scotia election, including information on pre-election standings and polls, an introduction to the leaders and platforms of the major parties, and the election’s final results.

Nova Scotia Electoral Backgrounder

Previous elections and pre-election party standings/polls

Political Parties in 2003 Nova Scotia Election

Policies and leaders of the parties in the election

2003 Nova Scotia Election Results

Alberta Progressive Conservatives win a majority government

Links for More Information

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Nova Scotia Electoral Backgrounder

Previous elections and pre-election party standings/polls

Party Standings Prior to the Election

Prior to the election being called, the Progressive Conservative Party held a majority government with 31 of 52 seats in the Nova Scotia legislature. The New Democrats were the Official Opposition with 11 seats.

Political Party

Seats in Legislature

Progressive Conservatives


New Democratic Party


Liberal Party






(Source: Nova Scotia Legislature Website, July 2003)

Pre-election Public Opinion Polls

A public opinion poll conducted in May 2003 found the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives neck and neck in public support, with the New Democrats trailing. The poll also found strong support for the leadership of Premier Hamm.

Public Support By Political Party



Progressive Conservatives


New Democrats


Public Support By Leader

John Hamm (PC)


Danny Graham (LIB)


Darrell Dexter (NDP)


(Source: Corporate Research Associates Inc., May 2003)

Political Parties in 2003 Nova Scotia Election

Policies and leaders of the parties in the election

Party Leader Biographies

John Hamm (Progressive Conservative Party): Mr. Hamm was born in 1938 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of King’s College in 1958, and from Dalhousie Medical School in 1963. Prior to entering politics, he practiced family medicine. He was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1993 and became leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1995. Mr. Hamm became Premier in 1999. He has also served as President of the Nova Scotia Medical Society, President of the College of Family Physicians of Nova Scotia, and Chairman of the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation. Mr. Hamm is married to Genesta, and together they have three children.

Darrell Dexter (New Democratic Party): Mr. Dexter graduated from University of King’s College with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Journalism. He then graduated from Dalhousie University with Bachelor of Education and a Law degree. Prior to entering politics, Mr. Dexter was a lawyer in the Dartmouth firm Weldon, Beeler, Mont & Dexter. In 1994, he was elected Alderman of the Dartmouth City Council. He was first elected to the provincial legislature in 1998, and became leader of the New Democratic Party in 2002. Mr. Dexter has also served as Board of directors for the Victorian Order of Nurses Dartmouth Branch, Member of Dartmouth General Hospital Commission, and chairman of the Dartmouth Waterfront Development Task Force. Mr. Dexter is married to Kelly Wilson, and they have one son.

Danny Graham (Liberal Party): Mr. Graham attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He graduated with a Law degree from Dalhousie University. Prior to entering politics, Mr. Graham was a lawyer with the Halifax firm Pink, Murray, Graham. He became leader of the Liberal Party in April 2002. For two years, he has also served as Special Advisor on justice issues to Canada’s federal Department of Justice. Mr. Graham is married to Sheelagh Nolon, and together they have three children. Mr. Graham is the son of Senator Al Graham.

Health Care Initiatives

The parties have made the following health care commitments:

Progressive Conservative Party:
  • Increase staffing levels, including 350 more nurses, 100 doctors, and 88 medical laboratory technologists
  • Cover the full medical costs of nursing home care
  • Introduce a low-income drug assistance plan for diabetics without drug coverage
New Democratic Party
  • Cover the full medical costs of nursing home care
  • Introduce centralized wait lists to reduce waiting time for surgery and diagnostic tests

Education Initiatives

In the area of education, the parties have promised the following:

Progressive Conservative Party:
  • Increase funding by an additional $1,000 per student
  • Pilot a free preschool program
  • Place a cap on elementary school classroom sizes (the cap would vary according to grade)
  • Increase investment in books, math tools, learn-ware packages and teaching resources
New Democratic Party:
  • Increase funding and services in elementary and secondary schools, including early assessment of learning needs, proper access to professional staff and resource teachers, appropriate classroom sizes, and more resource materials for teachers
  • Increase transfers to universities, freeze tuition costs, and introduce a debt relief plan for post-secondary students.
Liberal Party:
  • Place a cap on classes sizes (25 students in all classes from primary to Grade 9)
  • Increase staffing levels, including 500 new teachers, and 100 resource teachers and educational assistants over three years
  • Implement a program for preschool children to provide additional support to “at-risk” families

Government Finances and Taxation

Regarding government finances and taxation, the parties have supported the following:

Progressive Conservative Party:
  • Deliver consecutive balanced budgets and introduce a multi-year debt payment plan
  • 10 percent income tax cut
  • Increase the annual business limit under which the small business tax rate applies
  • Establish a new Nova Scotia book publishers’ tax credit
New Democratic Party:
  • Balance the budget and cut the provincial debt in half by 2020
  • Remove the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on essential goods and services, such as home heating and children’s medicine.
  • Restore monitoring and enforcement to decrease HST fraud
Liberal Party:
  • Balance the budget
  • Freeze user fees and taxes and end tax bracket creep

Cost and Regulation of Auto Insurance

The cost of auto insurance in the province has also been a central issue to voters. In this context, the parties have committed to the following:

Progressive Conservative Party:
  • Reduce auto insurance by 20 percent by capping payouts for minor injuries
New Democratic Party:
  • Reduce auto insurance by creating a government-owned, non-profit insurance plan
Liberal Party:
  • Reduce auto insurance rates by 15 percent through legislation and capping payouts for minor injuries

Other Platform Initiatives

Other commitments made by the parties include:

Progressive Conservative Party:
  • Create a new farmer assistant program based on individual farm needs
  • Allow a trial period for Sunday shopping six weeks prior to Christmas, followed by a province-wide plebiscite
  • Infrastructure spending, including increased funding for provincial highways and rural road improvements, and a steel truss bridge replacement program
Liberal Party:
  • Allocate provincial gas tax revenues for spending on roads, rail, air and port facilities
  • Dedicate 10 percent of lottery ticket revenues for sport and recreation programs and facilities
  • Allow Sunday shopping year-round, with protections for workers

2003 Nova Scotia Election Results

Progressive Conservatives win a minority government

Premier John Hamm and the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party managed to win a minority government on election night. The PC Party secured 25 seats in the provincial legislature, 2 seats shy of a clear majority. The New Democrats came in second with 15 seats, forming the Official Opposition, while the Liberal Party took a close third with 12 seats.

The consequence of a minority government is that the PC party will now need to solicit support from either the NDP or the Liberals in order to pass government legislation and initiatives. As such, the PC Party will have to work closely with the other parties in the design of legislation; in some cases, the governing party may take on the priorities of these other parties.

Results of 2003 Election

Political Parties

Popular Vote

Seats Won


Progressive Conservatives



Minority Government

New Democrat Party



Official Opposition

Liberal Party








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