A bloodied, but unbowed, Darrell Dexter


When elected leaders finally fail at the ballot box, their post-campaign routine typically conforms to the immemorial script of the politically vanquished: Fade into the background for an obligatory period of reflection; emerge sadder, but wiser; issue subdued, yet heartfelt, expressions of remorse.

No so for former Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter who resurfaces this week making no excuses for his one-term NDP government, which lost to the Liberals on October 8. In fact, in his first full, published interview (with the Globe and Mail) since his shellacking, than man seems downright feisty.

“There is a point at which you could say. . .what more do you have to do?” he told the newspaper late last week. “What more do you have to do in order to demonstrate, if not exceptional management skills, at least acceptable management skills and a certain level of vision?”

Not that he’s complaining. Not exactly.

“We didn’t have angry mobs following us around the campaign. In fact, of all of the events I did through the campaign. . .not once did a protester ever appear. . .I think at this point you get this phenomenon where people, where they act individually, and the result happens collectively. . .that’s part of the unpredictable nature of politics.”

As for the bottom line, he says “I am completely satisfied with the decisions I made. I made them because I believed they were in the best interests of my province. I’ll live with that.”

Whether or not his decisions were, for the most part, sage and prudent, only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that they were not the unmitigated disasters some members of the Fourth Estate claimed they were. Indeed, very few of them went far enough to risk failing marginally, let alone catastrophically.

His government raised the HST by two points and, in the process, launched its four-year “Back to Balance” plan. Maureen MacDonald, the former Minister of Finance, put it this way in the 2011-12 fiscal statement: “The Public Accounts for the year ended March 31, 2012 are reporting an improvement of $141.1 million compared with the budget estimate of a $389.6 million deficit. With total revenues of $9.7 billion and total expenses of $9.9 billion, the 2011-12 deficit is $248.5 million.”

Meanwhile, “At year-end, the province’s net debt was $13.2 billion, which presented as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product is 35.0 per cent for 2012. This Net Debt to GDP ratio is an improvement over previous years.”

Most famously, perhaps, Mr. Dexter took it squarely in the chin for lending Irving Shipbuilding a sizable chunk of taxpayer change to help the company win the federal government’s $25-billion naval procurement.

But, as he told the Globe, referring to the $2.2-billion windfall in expected provincial government revenues, “It seems to this day like a no-brainer. What government in its right mind would not do that when the returns are so great?”

As for his other measures, many seem worthy, if somewhat pedestrian. The NDP (says its website) “invested $8 million to ensure that every pre-school aged child with autism gets the help they need – help that was previously only available to half of them. . . .The NDP is putting what matters most first by increasing reading assistance to students, extending high school math to both semesters, and directing money from central offices to the classroom. . .The NDP’s Primary-Grade 3 class-size cap of 25 meant hiring more than 70 teachers this year.”

It’s hard to se how Mr. Dexter and his decidedly non-socialist New Democrats deserved to lose, when their mainstream policies and programs could have stemmed, just as easily, from Grit or Tory ranks.

Perhaps that’s why Mr. Dexter remains unapologetic, even a little defiant, about his fortunes these days.

In politics, just because you haven’t failed the public, doesn’t mean the public isn’t out to get you at the ballot box.

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