Stephen McNeil closed a chapter in Nova Scotia politics as he held his final media availability after a cabinet meeting on Thursday afternoon.
He thanked Nova Scotians, caucus colleagues and staff for their support through his 17 years in office, seven of which were spent a leading majority government that weathered some of Nova Scotia’s darkest days.
“This has been one of those years like none other, not just because of COVID,” he said.
“I have been so inspired by the way Nova Scotians have wrapped their arms around each other and supported each other, and followed the advice of Public Health even when it was fiscally to their detriment.”
McNeil’s last official day as premier is Friday. His focus in the upcoming days, he explained, will be supporting the transition of power to a new Liberal premier, who will be chosen on Saturday by party delegates.
“Of course we’ll walk with them through this and the process we’ve used working side by side with public health to deal with COVID.”
His last days as leader have been marked by a series of funding and policy announcements, including millions for businesses in the seafood sector, support for affordable housing initiatives, and much-needed new equipment for hospitals.
McNeil he’s proud of his administration and “activist government,” which has focused on opportunity and equality for all young Nova Scotians.
“I am proud of the fiscal health of this province, and for those of you out there who believe all I cared about was balancing budgets, you couldn’t be further from the truth,” he explained.
“I wanted to balance the budgets so I could invest in your kids in pre-primary. I wanted to invest in children in autism.”
Business Minister Geoff MacLellan, who announced he won’t be seeking re-election on Thursday, sang his colleague’s praises as a leader and friend.
“There was two silver linings for COVID for me in the chaos of the COVID impact,” he explained. “One was that I had every day for months to spend with my kids, and the second was that people saw the Stephen McNeil that we see — the kind strong leader that believes in people and puts everybody else in front him.”
Both leaders of Nova Scotia’s opposition parties thanked McNeil for his public service, and said they look forward to working with his replacement.