Since the last election held in 2012, the province has reduced the number of municipalities from 54 to 51. This is because on April 1 2015, three municipalities were annexed by their surrounding municipalities. Bridgetown was annexed by the County of Annapolis, Springhill was annexed by the County of Cumberland and Hantsport was annexed by the District of West Hants. The topic of amalgamations and annexations of municipalities in the province continues to be a heated debate as municipalities must wrestle between shrinking tax bases and providing adequate services. A flashpoint in this debate came earlier this year when voters in Pictou County rejected the idea of amalgamating the county's municipalities in a plebiscite by a 66%-34% margin.
|Map of Nova Scotia's 51 municipalities|
Nova Scotia's municipalities can be divided into three types: Regional Municipalities, Towns and Municipal Districts/Counties. Nova Scotia hasn't had any incorporated cities since a series of amalgamations in the 1990s. There are three Regional Municipalities in the province, including the two largest municipalities, Halifax and Cape Breton. These are unlike the Regional Municipalities in Ontario, for example, in that there are are no lower levels of government in those areas. They are quite large in size, having been created out of the former counties that existed in their place. Each of the three regional municipalities are headed by a mayor, elected at-large and have a number of councillors elected from “districts” (usually called wards in other provinces).
The second form of municipalities are towns, which are very small in geographic size compared to the regional municipalities and the counties and municipal districts. There are 27 towns in Nova Scotia. Each are headed by mayors, elected at-large and have a number of councillors.
The final form of municipalities are the counties and municipal districts. The only difference between counties and municipal districts are that the municipal districts are generally smaller than the counties, having been created out of counties themselves. However, their form of government is much the same. There are nine county municipalities in Nova Scotia and 12 municipal districts. All but two of these jurisdictions are headed by wardens, while the remaining two (Lunenburg District and Colchester County) are headed by mayors, elected at large. In this election, Kings County will elect its mayor for the first time, ditching the old warden-council system. Municipalities with the warden-council system have the wardens elected from among the elected councillors by the councillors themselves. Each county and municipal district are divided into a number of districts from which their councillors are elected.
Elections in major municipalities
Savage won the 2012 race in a much more crowded field, but still by a decent margin, winning 58% of the vote, ahead of challengers Tom Martin (20%) and Fred Connors (18%). Three other candidates ran as well, each winning about 1% of the vote. Savage won all 16 districts in the city, doing the best in his native Dartmouth, while doing worse in the more rural parts of the city and in the inner-city. His strongest district was Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East (District 6) where he won 69% of the vote, while his worst district was Spryfield-Sambro-Prospect Road (District 11) on the Chebucto Peninsula, where win won 45% of the vote. This was retired police officer Tom Martin's strongest district, where he won 27% of the vote. Activist and businessman Fred Connors' strongest district was Peninsula North (District 8) in the inner-city, where he won 27% of the vote.
|Map of Halifax's 16 council districts|
On regional council, four of the city's 16 districts have open races, that is the incumbent in those seats have decided to retire instead of running for re-election. The four districts are District 1 (Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley), District 5 (Dartmouth Centre), District 8 (Peninsula North) and District 12 (Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park West-Wedgewood). There will be no elections in District 3 (Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage), District 4 (Cole Harbour-Westphal), District 15 (Lower Sackville) and District 16 (Bedford-Wentworth) as the incumbents there have been acclaimed.
In 2012, Clarke defeated MacSween by a 59%-38% margin with three minor candidates winning the remaining 3%. I was lucky to be sent the results by district by the region's elections office, though the results by district may be a bit misleading, as over half of all voters voted in advance and did not have their votes recorded by district. Nonetheless, of those voting on election day, Clarke won all but one district in the region. He was especially strong in the Sydney Mines and North Sydney areas (Districts 1 and 2), which cover the provincial riding he represented. The one district he lost was District 11, which covers the New Waterford area. MacSween won the district by just 0.7% of the vote. The New Waterford area has historically been a very strong region for the NDP in provincial elections.
|Cape Breton's 12 council districts|
Cape Breton has a 12 seat municipal council, which only saw a minor boundary change since the last election. Every seat in the region will see a contested race, and four districts will have open races, including District 10 where disgraced former Liberal MLA Dave Wilson is running.
|Main mayoral candidates|
|King County's 9 council districts (new map for 2016)|
In addition to ditching the position of warden, the county has also reduced the number of council districts from 12 to nine, reducing the size of council from 13 members to ten. Due to a number of retirements on council however, no district is seeing more than one councillor run against each other.
|Colchester County's 11 council districts|
Colchester County has 11 districts on council, most of which will not be seeing elections as their incumbents have been acclaimed, or in one case (District 1), a non-incumbent was the only candidate to offer. Elections will only occur in two districts: District 2 and District 11.
Those are the four biggest municipalities, but there are other races being held right across the province of course. Polls close at 7pm Atlantic time (6pm Eastern).