N.S. Liberal leader Iain Rankin announces he’s stepping down, 5 months after election loss

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Iain Rankin steps down as Nova Scotia Liberal leader
WATCH: For the second time in less than a year, the Nova Scotia Liberal party is once again on the hunt for a new leader. Liberal leader Iain Rankin announced today he will be stepping down. The former premier was chosen as leader last February and led the party to defeat for the first time in eight years during the August election. Alicia Draus reports – Jan 5, 2022

Nova Scotia Liberal leader Iain Rankin, who led the party to defeat for the first time in eight years during the August election, has announced he is stepping down.

During a Zoom news conference Wednesday, Rankin said he decided to leave the role after spending time with his family over the holidays.

“After having that time to reflect, I have decided that the best path forward for the Nova Scotia Liberal party is to step down and make room for a new leader,” he said.

Rankin was two months away from facing a mandatory leadership review.

He said he will remain leader of the Liberal party until a new leader is chosen, and he will continue serving as MLA for Timberlea-Prospect.

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“I want to see a strong Nova Scotia Liberal Party under new leadership, and I look forward to continuing to be part of the team,” he said.

Rankin, 38, became leader of the Liberal party — and premier, by extension — in February of 2021, replacing former premier Stephen McNeil, who held the seat for more than seven years before his resignation.

However, Rankin’s role as premier was short-lived. After calling an election in July, his campaign was marred by scandals after he disclosed two previous drunk driving charges, and after a former Liberal candidate accused his party of not allowing her to run because of her “boudoir photos.”

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The Liberals ended up losing the August election handily to the Progressive Conservatives, which walked away from the race with a majority government.

During Wednesday’s conference, Rankin acknowledged party members were “disappointed” with the election results. He said if he could do it over again, he would have improved the party’s communication strategy and released the party’s platform earlier.

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However, he said he has support from the Liberal caucus and his decision to step down was his, not the party’s.

“No one said that I must go,” he said.

Rankin said a campaign review is underway where hopefully there will be “learnings from that.”

Despite going into the election with 24 seats and leaving with 17, Rankin said the state of the party is still “strong,” but said there are still issues he’d like to tackle in terms of the “rejuvenation of the party.”

In a tweet, Progressive Conservative leader and Premier Tim Houston wished Rankin and his family “the best in this next chapter.”

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“(Rankin) has spent many years in service to Nova Scotians, first as Minister and then as Premier during a very challenging time in the pandemic,” he wrote.

“I understand the weight of making tough decisions to keep Nova Scotians safe, and I thank him for his service.”

Rankin is the second Opposition party leader to announce he is stepping down in the months following the provincial election in August.

In November, provincial NDP leader Gary Burrill announced he will step down. He, too, remains on the job until the party chooses a replacement.

In a tweet, Burrill also wished Rankin his best on Wednesday.

“Iain Rankin has always been one of the best and most attentive listeners in the Legislature, and has consistently, in his work, shown himself to be a good and conscientious person,” he said. “I wish him the very best.”

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