Nova Scotia election: 2 high-profile Liberal ministers unseated

Former community services minister Joanne Bernard, left, and energy minister Michel Samson were two Liberal ministers who lost their seats in the Nova Scotia 2017 election. File

The Nova Scotia Liberals rode their way to victory Tuesday night, winning their second consecutive majority, but suffered some losses including two high-profile ministers.

By the end of the night, Stephen McNeil kept his role as premier and his party won the first back-to-back majority the province has seen since 1988 with 27 seats — the needed number is 26. However, they lost seven seats along the way.

One of the biggest upsets of the night was in Cape Breton-Richmond where long-standing MLA and cabinet minister Michel Samson was defeated by Progressive Conservative candidate Alana Paon by 20 votes. Samson had served as MLA since 1998.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia voter turnout drops to all-time low in 2017 election

Samson declined to comment, but on Wednesday Premier Stephen McNeil said he believed issues of health care that came up on Cape Breton Island as well as other past decisions may have had impact.

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“If you look at potentially some of the issues around some of the decisions our government has made, all of those in their totality impact ridings,” McNeil told reporters in Province House.

The premier said it was a disappointing loss for both the party, as well as himself.

“Very few people understood the profound respect I had for him, how much I relied on him, how important he was to me personally,” McNeil said. “It was a case where I could literally lean across and say, ‘it’s over to you now,’ and out I would go.”

Asked if there was any sense of Samson wanting a recall, McNeil said the two did not discuss the issue.

Dartmouth North goes orange

For Joanne Bernard, community services minister under McNeil in the previous legislative assembly, the Liberal majority didn’t end up with her back in her seat for Dartmouth North.

READ MORE: Squeaker races win Nova Scotia Liberals their majority

Bernard lost the riding Tuesday night to NDP candidate and Zuppa Theatre co-artistic director Susan Leblanc. The two battled for the spot before Leblanc took the seat with 39.3 per cent of the vote.

Bernard told Global News that she wishes Leblanc well in her role as a new MLA, but said she was disappointed over the loss.

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“I always like to finish what I start and I’m not quite through the work of transformation at DCS (Department of Community Services), but I’m confident that it will continue under someone’s leadership which is a really great thing,” Bernard said.

Asked what she still wanted to do in transforming the department, she said she wanted to introduce the standard household rate, which is a new rate structure that is based on need and is linked to the workforce.

“It was really about matching people to the need instead of treating everyone the same,” she said.

The former minister said she had also wanted to focus on gender-based violence under the domestic violence action plan and build on the sexual violence strategy currently in place.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia election: A by-the-numbers breakdown of the results

She said she’d like the next person who takes on her portfolio be a feminist and someone who understands the struggles of people who have multiple challenges.

With her no longer sitting in the legislature, Bernard said her next move is to rest, as well as to wind down her MLA office and move out of her ministerial office.

“And some reflection,” she said. “It is what it is. You know, when one door closes, the old cliche, another one opens. So we’ll see.”

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The results are unofficial until approved by the chief electoral officer.

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