The Nova Scotia PC party has a new leader after Tim Houston was elected with overwhelming support on Saturday.
But the hard work is far from over.
Second-place challenger Cecil Clarke may have voluntarily dropped out after the first ballot, but Houston now faces the task of reuniting the fractured party after several fellow MLAs ran against him.
It’s a challenge that Houston seemed to acknowledge in his acceptance speech on Saturday.
“I think the members have now had their say. The results are in. There’s a new leader of the party and we’ll just go forward from here,” Houston said.
“I don’t get the sense that there’s lots of desire from people to look backwards. I think we’re going to look forwards and do great things for this party.”
Lori Turnbull, a political science professor at Dalhousie University, says that party representatives are normally open to breaking bread after a leadership race and that his biggest challenge will be winning over his rival’s supporters.
“Caucus members are the face of the party. They’re the representatives of the party, so he’s going to want to definitely make sure he has his caucus onside,” she said.
“Houston might want to look at why the other candidates got the support they did and try to do things that appeal to the voters that supported his competitors.”
If he doesn’t sway those supporters, the PC party could see votes that would’ve gone to another leadership candidate go to another party when the province next heads to the polls.
“He might want to make sure that he’s attracting the biggest conservative vote that he can and that no faction within the party feels left (out),” Turnbull said.
WATCH: PC Leadership Candidate Tim Houston
But the opportunity is there for Houston and the PCs to take advantage of a rocky road in front of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, which currently holds power in the legislature.
“Stephen McNeil is polling as the least popular premier in the country, so I think that things look pretty good for Houston,” Turnbull said, adding that a lot can happen in the two and a half years before the next general election.
Global News made repeated requests for an interview with Houston but he was not made available.
Houston came under fire during the leadership campaign after it was found by the party’s Leadership Selection Committee that his campaign violated leadership rules. The committee found that an Argyle Street party held during the Conservative party convention had violated leadership rules by accepting donations from a federal electoral district society.
He was fined $2,500 as a result; $1,500 for the unauthorized contribution from the Central Nova Conservative Association, as well as an additional $1,000.
Houston also faced criticism in July after it was found that 72 party members were contacted using party resources by supporters of Tim Houston’s leadership campaign, regarding an ice-cream social he was co-hosting.
In a decision letter, the leadership selection committee co-chairs determined the email had been sent by a staff member in the party office, and they were “not mindful that the request amounted to using party resources in a partisan manner.”
Turnbull says that Houston now has time to build up his reputation as opposition leader, giving him a chance to court the general public.
“He has to find a way to create his own relationship with Nova Scotians and make sure that people are mobilized to support him,” she said.
— With files from Jeremy Keefe