1998 Nova Scotia general election
The 1998 Nova Scotia general election was held on March 24, 1998 to elect members of the 57th House of Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia, Canada. The Liberal party and the New Democratic Party tied in the seat count, with 19 each, while the Progressive Conservatives won 14 seats. The Liberals went on to form a minority government with the support of the Progressive Conservatives.
Liberal Premier John Savage was elected in a landslide in 1993. The Liberals inherited a $471-million deficit, and launched an austerity program which cut the province's health and education systems. On April 1, 1997, the provincial government imposed a 15% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which merged the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This shift angered some Nova Scotians who now had to pay taxes on things that had previously been exempted, such as home heating fuel. Savage also implemented an unpopular highway toll. Liberal party infighting eventually resulted in Savage's resignation in July 1997. Russell MacLellan became Premier of Nova Scotia on July 18, 1997.
The governing Liberals were desperate to distance themselves from the Savage government which was viewed as deeply unpopular. New leader, Russell MacLellan, was made the focus of the campaign with all Liberal candidates signs displaying the phrase, "the MacLellan Liberals."
During a televised debate on March 5, 1998, MacLellan stumbled badly when Progressive Conservative Leader John Hamm asked if he would resign if he failed to bring in a balanced budget. Instead of responding, MacLellan stared straight ahead and did not speak for seven seconds. MacLellan blamed the pause on rigid debate rules. This moment marked a turning point in a race that saw the Liberals barely retain power.