Candidates in the race to replace Stephen McNeil as Nova Scotia’s premier will make one final appeal for delegate votes in speeches on Sunday evening.
Labi Kousoulis, Iain Rankin and Randy Delorey — all former cabinet ministers in the McNeil government — will deliver remarks in a virtual address at 7 p.m., live-streamed on the Nova Scotia Liberal Party’s website.
About 8,100 party delegates will choose the new leader this week in a ranked ballot system. Voting begins at 8 a.m. on Monday and ends at 3 p.m. on Feb. 6, after which the 2021 Virtual Liberal Leadership Convention will begin.
The kickoff will include a reading of the first and second ballot results and a speech by the successful candidate.
Candidate: Iain Rankin
Iain Rankin, 37, is the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect and the former minister of lands and forestry. A Cape Breton native, he describes himself as “hard worker,” with a record of achievement in his riding, ready to bring Nova Scotia “to the next level.”
“I think I’ve clearly defined a path how to get there, I’ve been talking about this since day one — doubling our renewable energy, putting equity in all of my platform pieces,” he explained.
“I think that it’s important to listen to young people, I’m a bridge age in my thirties that I can tap into what people what to see, that significant change.”
A top priority as premier, he said, will be reducing “social inequities,” repairing relationships with Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotians and other under-represented communities. Rankin also said he’ll reach out to both political opposition parties to ensure as much co-operation as possible as the province begins its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He promises to end the province’s use of coal to generate electricity by 2030 and has set a goal of having 80 per cent of Nova Scotia’s energy coming from renewable sources by that same year.
His rural roots and urban riding put him in a good position to keep the Liberals in power when the next provincial election is called, he added.
More information on Rankin’s campaign is available here.
Candidate: Labi Kousoulis
Kouslis, 49, is the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, and has served as minister for labour and advanced education. The former business owner touts his private sector experience and time in rural Nova Scotia as evidence that he will be the premier for “all Nova Scotians.”
“I will have a real focus on rural Nova Scotia, who we need to catch up to Halifax,” he told Global News.
“I owned and operated my own small business, which I started from scratch and that gives me a real appreciation for what our small business owners are going through in this pandemic.”
Kousoulis has promised to distribute public sector jobs across the province; he said COVID-19 has demonstrated “not every job has to be done in an office in downtown Halifax.”
He has also pledged $60 million in tax relief to help the small business sector get through the pandemic, vowed to build safer rural highways, and promised to work with municipalities on cross-provincial public transit projects.
Kousoulis also proposes committing resource-based revenues to a new green fund, and appointing a minister of mental health and addiction services to oversee the expansion of mental health supports in the health-care system, and ensure both education and government policies are developed through a mental health lens.
“My whole life I’ve given back by volunteering and this is just an extension of who I am,” he said, of why he wants Nova Scotia’s top job.
More information on Kousoulis’ campaign is available here.
Candidate: Randy Delorey
Delorey, 42, has held portfolios in finance, environment and health while serving as the MLA for Antigonish and emphasized this diverse experience and “proven leadership” will allow him to hit the ground running in Nova Scotia’s pandemic recovery.
“Continuing our response to the COVID pandemic, getting the vaccine rollout done successfully — my experience as the minister of health through the first wave (means) I know all the players, I know what needs to be done,” he said in an interview from his riding.
“There’s no learning for me when I step into that role.”
As a former finance minister, Delorey also emphasized, he knows how to “manage the province’s books.” He has proposed to defer provincial tax and loan payments for businesses after the province’s state of emergency is lifted and pledged to offer free university tuition for low-income Nova Scotians who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
He said he’s particularly proud of his promise to advance care for Nova Scotia’s seniors, which includes a dental care program and at least $500 in coverage for hearing aids for those with low income.
“This is next logical step for me, for the party, to take on the leadership role, and to then take that to general population in the next general election.”
More information on Delorey’s campaign is available here.
The leadership race was triggered by McNeil’s retirement announcement in August 2020. After 17 years as a politician and two consecutive terms as premier with a majority government, McNeil said it was “time for someone else” to lead the party and province.
On Jan. 27, in a farewell address to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, he said the move was the “right thing for Nova Scotia,” and that he hopes the next premier will prioritize the continued development of health-care infrastructure and broadband Internet service in rural Nova Scotia.
He also offered some advice to the man who will replace him next weekend, including: “stop reading the media.”
“Stay true to your core, stay true to the values that were instilled in you… Your decisions should always be made on the principle of what’s right for Nova Scotia, and then figure out the politics of it,” McNeil said. “This is not a popularity contest, if you’re looking to be liked this is probably not the job to take.”
— With files from The Canadian Press.