John Patrick Savage

In the 1972 and 1979 federal elections Savage ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals. He was elected to the Dartmouth School Board in 1978 and became its chairman in 1984. A self-styled social activist, he strongly advocated social issues and became a popular board member.

Savage, John
John Savage, premier of Nova Scotia (courtesy Office of the Premier, Government of Nova Scotia).

Savage, John Patrick

John Patrick Savage, physician, politician, premier of Nova Scotia (b at Newport, South Wales, UK 28 May 1932). Savage received his medical degree in family medicine from Queen's University in Belfast in 1956. He served in the British Medical Corps for 4 years and then practised medicine in Wales until 1966 when economic conditions in the UK led him to emigrate to Canada. He settled in Dartmouth, NS, and became a partner in a medical centre, specializing in family medicine. In addition to his practice he spent 16 years on the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie and lectured at St Francis Xavier University, Mount Allison University and the University College of Cape Breton.

In the 1972 and 1979 federal elections Savage ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals. He was elected to the Dartmouth School Board in 1978 and became its chairman in 1984. A self-styled social activist, he strongly advocated social issues and became a popular board member. In 1985 he translated that popularity into a successful run for the mayor's chair in Dartmouth. Focusing primarily on social policy issues, he was re-elected in 1988 and 1991. When Vince McLean resigned as Nova Scotia's Liberal leader, Savage entered the race to succeed him. On 20 June 1992, in the first leadership convention in Canada conducted by a phone-in ballot, Savage was elected to lead the Liberal Party. He served as Oppositon leader without a seat in the legislature. Savage's Liberals soundly defeated the Conservative government of Donald Cameron in the general election held 25 May 1993.

Savage's Liberals made significant alterations to the province's finances. The government cut the province's health and education systems severely and championed the 15% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which took effect on 1 April 1997, combining the federal Goods and Services Tax and provincial sales taxes, thus lowering the costs of some items but adding costs to others that were previously untaxed. These changes, along with Savage's decision to ignore the province's tradition of political patronage, led to a 1995 leadership review. Savage survived the review, but continued disapproval of his policies led him to resign the party leadership on 20 March 1997.