Former Nova Scotia cabinet minister Zach Churchill has officially entered the race for leadership of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.
Churchill, the MLA for Yarmouth, announced his intentions over the weekend and officially launched his campaign on Tuesday.
“This has been a terribly-kept secret. Never been good at those,” Churchill told party members and supporters during the event, which was live streamed over Facebook.
Churchill is the second candidate in the race, joining fellow caucus member Angela Simmonds, who launched her leadership campaign on Feb. 4.
Churchill, 37, was first elected to the provincial legislature in a byelection in 2010, re-elected in 2013, 2017 and 2021, and has served in various cabinet portfolios including health, education, natural resources and municipal affairs.
Current Liberal Leader Iain Rankin announced in January he would step down in the wake of the party’s defeat in the August provincial election, when the Progressive Conservatives under Tim Houston win a majority government.
During Tuesday’s event, Churchill said the major election loss has “affected us all.”
“But how we respond to this loss is really important, and it’s what’s going to define us as a party and determine how we move forward,” he said.
“And we certainly do have a choice to make, I think. We can wallow and point fingers at each other and assign blame, or we can wrap our arms around each other, recognize what we did wrong … and do better next time.”
Churchill took note of the province’s ongoing challenges in health care, the rising cost of living, and the ongoing labour shortages.
Without focusing on these issues, the Liberals are “going to be an Opposition party for a long time,” he said.
However, Churchill said there’s “no question” they need to “get our house in order” by rebuilding its 55 riding associations, re-energizing party members and engaging them “in a meaningful conversation about what we’re going to stand for now.”
“It can’t just be about beating Tim Houston,” he said. “It has to be about inspiring people and offering them a viable alternative.”
He said the “time for licking our wounds needs to be over” and the party must pick itself up by the bootstraps.
Churchill said he believes the Liberal party can win the next election and he is ready for the challenge.
Candidates have until March 21 to enter the Liberal leadership race. The new leader will be chosen at a convention scheduled for July 9.
— with files from The Canadian Press