It’s 2021 and Nova Scotia is having a provincial election. Despite repeated promises of an imminent turnaround, the economy continues to slide. Power rates are among the highest in the country, gas prices reach unimagined peaks, food is more expensive than ever. Nova Scotian workers remain among the lowest paid in the country. Every politician promises tax relief, yet taxes keep going up.

Under relentless legislative assault, unions are the weakest they’ve been in a century. Employers love the savings that come with part-time and contract workers, so thousands work without pensions and health plans, constantly scrabbling for enough gigs to pay their ever-mounting bills.

If an accident of DNA has put you among Nova Scotia’s upper class, or you somehow bucked the odds and built a thriving business, life is pretty good. But the ranks of the working poor continue to grow. Most of the middle class live on the edge of an economic precipice, only a layoff or an unexpected major expense away from falling into poverty.

The people governing this near-future Nova Scotia make big promises about lowering power rates and taxes, alleviating poverty. But they lie. Despite their familiar talk, they shy away from dramatic policy changes. Their main focus seems to be protecting the status quo.

In this ideological and ethical vacuum, a new voice emerges and unexpectedly becomes leader of a political party. Perhaps they’re a city councillor with bigger ambitions or a business person who is tired of pushing their agenda from behind the scenes. Maybe they’re a former backbench MLA who has discovered how easy it is to grab the media spotlight if one has no shame or scruples.

This new leader has a rep for telling it like it is. Sure they lie sometimes, but when you remember “A doctor for every Nova Scotian” or “We will break Nova Scotia Power’s monopoly,” what’s one more lie?

This challenger is the self-described champion of the common folk. They embrace passion, fire, and crass insults thinly veiled as blunt talk. They rail about Canadian values and the creeping evil of political correctness.

This “voice of the people” insinuates that immigration and multiculturalism cause our problems. Commentators are horrified, but supporters eat it up. Emboldened, the challenger’s racism becomes more overt. When people are frustrated and worried about the future, xenophobia is an easy sell.

Nova Scotia’s sleepily entitled political class is ill equipped to face this insurgency that begins in Hammonds Plains, Canning, or some other unlikely place and spreads across the province.

The incumbents placidly continue with their same old politics, assuming people will vote in the same old way. But in this 2021 election, voters abandon their old party lines. They laugh off the challenger’s rough edges and vote with their hearts. They vote for a promise to stick it to the liberal elites who are scapegoated for the province’s economic malaise.

And in 2021, Nova Scotia elects its own Doug Ford, its own Donald Trump—

Whoops, I’m sorry. Summer editorials are supposed to be light cheerful beach reads, and this what-if story is just getting grimmer. My point is, somewhere out there, that nightmare would-be premier is just waiting for their chance, and every day Nova Scotians get poorer, that chance improves.

But this isn’t the only future available to us. Politicians: now is the time to forestall this. Take tangible steps to make life better for working Nova Scotians, treat workers fairly and give them a chance to prosper, stop lying to voters, keep your promises, confront racism and xenophobia fiercely and relentlessly. Show Nova Scotians that we aren’t doomed and don’t need a pandering populist to save us.   

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