HALIFAX – There was a line up to get into the provincial council meeting of the Nova Scotia NDP on Saturday.
The party has been in shambles since the election in October, when they went from having a majority government with 31 seats in the legislature, to being in third place party status with just seven elected MLAs.
More than a month later, the party named Maureen MacDonald as the new acting leader.
“It’s a very big day for me. I’ve been a party member for a long time and I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie in front of us” she told Global Halifax minutes after being appointed.
MacDonald, the MLA for Halifax-Needham, has won six consecutive elections and served as the province’s first female Minister of Finance.
“She’s not only experienced, but her heart is in the right place. She’s also a very intelligent woman and she’ll provide great interim leadership to guide us through the transition” said Peter Stoffer, MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore.
MacDonald says the party needs to re-group, build their membership and regain the public’s trust before the next election. Her appointment comes exactly one week after Darrell Dexter announced he was stepping down. Taking over from Dexter is a bittersweet occasion for MacDonald.
“Darrell and I were merely out of our adolescent years when we joined this party. We’ve grown up together over 35 years working with the Nova Scotia NDP,” she said.
“We would never have gotten into government if he hadn’t been our leader.”
NDP members say the support for the party has always been in the province, they just need to find a way to re-energize it.
“Let’s face it: the next election started today when you really think about it. So we have 3 and a half, 4 years to rebuild, to get our candidates, to get the membership, to raise the funds, to develop the policies where we move forward and I’m very positive about that,” added Stoffer.
MacDonald will serve as interim leader until the party selects a new permanent leader. There had been rumours that Stoffer might take over the reins, but he says the party needs someone younger to lead them into the future.
“I don’t use a computer. I’ve never emailed, I don’t flicker or tweet or do any of that stuff. I just pick up a phone and call people. It’s been very effective for me in this regard but to move forward in that modern sense, you need someone who’s well connected like that,” he said.