N.S. Liberal Party to meet this weekend, decide rules of the race to replace Stephen McNeil

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil speaks at a COVID-19 press briefing in Halifax on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Government of Nova Scotia

As speculation continues on who will toss their hat in the ring to replace Stephen McNeil as the province’s premier, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party confirms its provincial board will meet this weekend to discuss the rules of the leadership race.

Many of the campaign details will be hashed out during this session, said party president Joseph Khoury in an emailed statement on Monday afternoon. Start dates, fundraising rules and entrance fees are among the items that must be deliberated.

“As per our by-law, a date for the Leadership Convention will also be selected and we will commence discussions to determine the rules that will guide the process,” he wrote.

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It’s been a little over two weeks since McNeil stunned Nova Scotians with his resignation announcement, and to date, only two people have indicated their interest in succeeding him.

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One is current Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab and the other is former cabinet minister and Dartmouth North MLA Joanne Bernard. Both said they’re awaiting details from the Liberal Party before committing to their candidacy.

“I don’t want finances to be a barrier,” said Bernard, who held office between 2013 and 2017 and now serves as the president of Easter Seals Nova Scotia. “I know that the entrance fee will be high as it has been previously in other races…

“I want to see what the fundraising rules are around that and then we’ll go from there. If I can figure that out, definitely would put my name in the ring.”

Joanne Bernard, a former cabinet minister and MLA for Dartmouth North in Nova Scotia, said her commitment to enter the race to replace Stephen McNeil as premier depends on the rules of the leadership campaign. Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

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As the head of a non-profit organization, Bernard said asking for money is no obstacle, she simply wants to know what kinds of fundraising methods will be permitted — whether crowdfunding online will be allowed, for example.

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Diab — the only member of McNeil’s current cabinet who’s voiced interest in the top job — said “it would be nice” to fill in some of the unknowns around the campaign, including when it will start. But her primary focus, she added, is making sure she has support from her family and community.

“There’s a lot of things to consider. I’ve been encouraged by the number of people that have contacted me and offered their support,” she told Global News.

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Both women hope to be the province’s first female premier and believe the time is ripe for a woman to lead. Women, they said, bring new and diverse perspectives to politics and are every bit as strong and competent as men.

“Women are smart, women are just as capable as men of leading government and I think the opportunity is here now for Nova Scotians to embrace that,” said Bernard.

“I believe that it’s important for all women and girls, irrespective of their background, to see themselves in these roles,” said Diab.

Click to play video: 'Premier Stephen McNeil stepping down as leader of N.S.' Premier Stephen McNeil stepping down as leader of N.S.
Premier Stephen McNeil stepping down as leader of N.S – Aug 6, 2020

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Both Diab and Bernard said they look forward to supporting other women whose names end up on the ballot, and to working with — and potentially competing with — any current cabinet members who enter the race.

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“I welcome strong competition,” said Diab. “It makes us a better province and political party.”

Once a Liberal leadership candidate is selected, a provincial election could be called anytime before spring of 2022.

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