Nova Scotia Independent Elizabeth Smith-McCrisson Shows that Campaigns Do Matter

Written By Wyatt Claypool, Posted on August 19, 2021

While most were focused on the shocking upset victory of the Progressive Conservative Party over the Liberals in the Nova Scotia provincial election, Independent candidate Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin had an upset victory of her own, blowing out the polling projections that had predicted she would be roundly defeated. 

Not only was this a rebuke to the PC Party trying to cancel Smith-McCrossin for protesting the provincial lockdowns that shuttered the borders, and refusing to apologize for encouraging constituents to blockade the border to commercial trucks, but it also proved how much campaigns matter to the election of anti-establishment and independent political candidates.

There is a myth in Canadian politics that independent or anti-establishment candidates connected to minor parties cannot win, or rarely win, but that would only be true insofar as the vast majority of non-major party candidates don’t bother actually campaigning and are merely names on ballots nobody knows about until they are filling out their ballot on election day.

Independents like Smith-McCrossin are not just names on ballots because they actually had well-organized campaigns and went out leafleting, door-knocking, and hosting rallies to make it known to voters that they are serious and viable candidates.

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Smith-McCrossin was projected by the polling aggregator website 338 Canada to only win 8.4 percent of the overall vote in Cumberland North and instead she managed to get 54 percent of the vote once all the polling stations finished counting.

She said on election night after being declared the winner that:

When I was on the doorsteps I felt the support and I think what we’re seeing tonight is that coming to light. The people of this riding wanted their voices to be heard and I think they’ve been heard loud and clear with this result tonight.

Smith-McCrossin didn’t bother listening to the phone polls conducted by professional polling firms as she understood that the only poll that truly mattered was on election night, and to win she needed to find her supporters and turn them out better than her opponents. 


It is notable that Cumberland North had below 50 percent voter turnout, so not only did polling firms fail to identify pre-existing support for Smith-McCrossin, but they also had no clue which voters were the most likely to actually cast ballots.

Overall in the Nova Scotia provincial election, the Liberals were in theory supposed to have a comfortable path to victory based on the polls, but if someone who’d vote for the Liberals in a phone poll lacks the motive to actually cast a ballot then were they really a Liberal supporter or just indicating who they would choose if forced to vote? 

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This means in the federal election, just like Jody Wilson-Raybould in 2019 in Vancouver Granville, Maxime Bernier, Derek Sloan (who seems to be indicating he will be running for election in Alberta), and Jonas Smith actually have a shot at victory, as long as they can fundraise to the equivalent of, or more than, their major-party opponents, and surround themselves with a dedicated campaign team and volunteers in order to look viable to voters.

Non-major party candidates like them can win, but they must avoid overestimating their popularity the way major party candidates tend to and must fight for every inch of territory in their riding on the ground and cannot assume traction on social media will result in localized support. 

Not many people outside of Nova Scotia had ever heard of Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, but she made sure that the several thousand constituents in her riding did, and supported her enough to actually cast a ballot.  

Wyatt Claypool

Wyatt is a student at Mount Royal University, where he is the president of its Campus Conservative club. In his writing, he focuses on covering provincial and federal politics, firearms regulation, and the energy sector. Wyatt has also previously written for The Post Millennial.

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