Advertisement

Liberals choose Iain Rankin as new leader, 29th premier of Nova Scotia

Click to play video: 'Iain Rankin chosen as new Nova Scotia Liberal Party Leader, next premier' Iain Rankin chosen as new Nova Scotia Liberal Party Leader, next premier
WATCH: Iain Rankin chosen as new Nova Scotia Liberal Party Leader, next premier – Feb 6, 2021

Iain Rankin is the new leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and will become the 29th premier of Nova Scotia.

Rankin, 37, was chosen on the second ballot of the Liberal Party’s convention Saturday.

The selection of Rankin on Saturday is the culmination of a decision by Premier Stephen McNeil last summer to announce his sudden retirement after 17 years in politics. He has served as premier since 2013.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Iain Rankin says he’ll be premier for all' Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Iain Rankin says he’ll be premier for all
Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Iain Rankin says he’ll be premier for all – Feb 6, 2021

Rankin thanked both of his opponents as well as his predecessor in a speech after the results were announced.

Story continues below advertisement

“Tonight I owe premier McNeil my eternal gratitude,” he said. “I will lead the province through these challenging times.”

He said that job number one is the continued success of Nova Scotia’s approach to dealing with COVID-19, which has kept cases among the lowest of any province in the country.

Read more: Stephen McNeil ‘proud’ of legacy as N.S. Liberals prepare to choose new leader

Rankin said he would look to meet with Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, as soon as possible.

He also signaled that his government will continue the strong fiscal approach taken by McNeil as well as make the environment a priority.

Click to play video: 'Iain Rankin named leader of N.S. Liberal Party, new premier-designate of province' Iain Rankin named leader of N.S. Liberal Party, new premier-designate of province
Iain Rankin named leader of N.S. Liberal Party, new premier-designate of province – Feb 6, 2021

Rankin wins on second ballot

By the time voting closed on Saturday, 7,849 of 8,100 party delegates had cast virtual votes in support of either former forestry minister Rankin, previous labour minister Labi Kousoulis or Randy Delorey, who’s held the province’s health, finance and environment portfolios under McNeil.

Story continues below advertisement

Votes had been cast since Monday via ranked ballot.

None of the three candidates were able to earn enough of the vote on the first ballot.

Despite being considered a front runner, Delorey, 42, was eliminated on the first ballot, having received the lowest vote percentage at 23 per cent.

His votes were redistributed to Rankin and Kousoulis, 49, who earned 40 per cent and 36.7 of the first ballot, respectively.

Rankin prevailed on the second ballot, earning 52.41 per cent of the vote and narrowly defeating Kousoulis, who earned 47.59 per cent.

Click to play video: 'Randy Delorey eliminated from Nova Scotia Liberal leadership race after 1st ballot' Randy Delorey eliminated from Nova Scotia Liberal leadership race after 1st ballot
Randy Delorey eliminated from Nova Scotia Liberal leadership race after 1st ballot – Feb 6, 2021

Rankin was the youngest of the three candidates and drew high-profile endorsements during the campaign from the likes of former party leader Vince MacLean and former deputy premier and finance minister Diana Whalen.

Story continues below advertisement

The Cape Breton native cited his youth as a political asset and released a platform linking economic pledges with environmental concerns.

He has pledged, for instance, 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

A video package before the votes were announced offered a recap of the years McNeil spent in power, painting a vivid image of what he has considered his highlights: including his push to balance the provincial budget, The inquiry into the Home for Colored Childre, the closure of the Northern Pulp mill.

During his time as premier, McNeil gained a reputation as a fiscal conservative and won back-to-back majority governments in 2013 and 2017.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Outgoing N.S. Liberal leader, Premier Stephen McNeil thanks party for support, praises COVID-19 response' Outgoing N.S. Liberal leader, Premier Stephen McNeil thanks party for support, praises COVID-19 response
Outgoing N.S. Liberal leader, Premier Stephen McNeil thanks party for support, praises COVID-19 response – Feb 6, 2021

His government passed five consecutive balanced budgets and McNeil said his style of fiscal management made it possible to invest in areas such as health and education.

However, he was often derided for his battle to rein in public sector wages.

McNeil offered his own thought on his legacy Saturday and he thanked his caucus, the voters in the province, as well as his own family.

“You unconditionally gave me your love,” he said, appearing to hold back tears.

The threat of COVID-19 changed the nature of the leadership campaign which was conducted entirely online.

“A virtual convention is a small price to pay,” McNeil said.

Click to play video: 'Iain Rankin calls Liberal leadership win a ‘monumental’ moment' Iain Rankin calls Liberal leadership win a ‘monumental’ moment
Iain Rankin calls Liberal leadership win a ‘monumental’ moment – Feb 6, 2021

A virtual leadership campaign

Political experts said the move to a digital platform had helped to keep the campaign largely flown under the public radar.

Story continues below advertisement

“The candidates who are running are experienced in politics and for some people, they will be household names,” Dalhousie University political scientist Lori Turnbull previously said in an interview. “But there was no campaign, it seems to me, that really captured a narrative that resonated with people.”

The party missed an opportunity to evolve, Turnbull said, noting the slate of leadership hopefuls does not include any women or party newcomers.

“This is a continuation of the current government and there is no breath of fresh air here,” she said.

Observers also said it was difficult to determine a front-runner among the candidates, who have all touted their experience in McNeil’s government among their qualifications for the top job.

Click to play video: 'Stephen McNeil holds last day in cabinet. Here’s his legacy' Stephen McNeil holds last day in cabinet. Here’s his legacy
Stephen McNeil holds last day in cabinet. Here’s his legacy – Feb 4, 2021

McNeil told reporters Friday that until his new successor is sworn in he will continue to assume the premier’s responsibilities.

Story continues below advertisement

A swearing-in date for the next premier has not been announced.

The provincial legislature is set to return on March 9 for the speech from the throne

Click to play video: 'Union leaders happy to see Stephen McNeil go' Union leaders happy to see Stephen McNeil go
Union leaders happy to see Stephen McNeil go – Aug 7, 2020

Provincial election to come by spring of 2022 

Whoever is chosen leader will then have a short period of time before heading into the next provincial election.

Nova Scotia is the only province without fixed election dates but Elections Nova Scotia says the spring of 2022 is the latest possible period the 41st provincial election can be held.

McNeil said he believes another majority government is possible for the Nova Scotia Liberal Party as long as it stays unified after the selection of a new leader.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our actions in the next 48 hours… will shape the next election,” McNeil said.

READ MORE: Home stretch for virtual Nova Scotia Liberal leadership race as voting starts Monday

It was a tone echoed by Rankin on Saturday evening.

“I don’t see any signs of fracturing,” he said.

Rankin said that Kousoulis and Delorey would both be “strong” members of his team going forward and he promised to act as a unifier.

“Although I was chosen by Liberals I will be a premier for all Nova Scotians,” he said.

“Nova Scotia’s next chapter begins now.”

–With files from The Canadian Press

Sponsored content