Meet Tony Ince: the man who beat Darrell Dexter

Ince said he was just trying to improve his results this time around and didn't think he would defeat Dexter, the NDP leader. Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – Tony Ince is still shell-shocked, and he should be — he beat out Darrell Dexter in the premier’s long-held riding of Cole Harbour-Portland Valley in Tuesday’s provincial election.

“It’s still surreal. I’m still trying to grasp everything that’s happened,” he said Wednesday.

“I’m humbled. It’s a pleasure to have the voters choose and believe in me.”

This was the 55-year-old’s second time running in the provincial election. He confided he was just trying to improve his results this time around, and didn’t think he would defeat the NDP leader.

“This is more than I expected,” he said.

According to his biography, Ince was born in Halifax and is a counsellor with the Department of Community Services who works with families, at-risk youth and incarcerated individuals. He was a project coordinator with the Black Educators Association, worked as a sales representative with Xerox Canada and worked as a patient attendant at Victoria General Hospital.

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Ince admitted that there was some skepticism when he put his name up against Dexter’s.

“A lot of people [said], ‘You’re going up against the premier, someone who has been here.’ I’m aware of that. But without trying to make it any less — he is a man. I’m a man,” he said.

As Ince, a father of two, watched the results roll in with his family and friends, he said he was cautiously optimistic but knew elections can flip in a heartbeat.

“As everyone was sitting around me and cheering, I tried to keep calm and say ‘You know what, it’s not over yet. It’s too close to count. Anything can happen’,” he said.

In the end, Ince beat out Dexter by 0.3 percentage points, coming away with 40.9 per cent of the vote while Dexter had 40.6 per cent. Ince won by a narrow margin of just 31 votes.

The riding has been an NDP stronghold since 1998 when Dexter snatched the seat away from the Liberals. Now the tide has turned, but Ince only had kind words about his opponent.

“There’s a man who puts his life and his time into this riding for a number of years,” he said.

Ince brushed off comments that suggested he alone took down the premier.

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“The voters saw the Liberal platform. I think it all resonated with them,” he said. “It wasn’t just me. I’m just the vehicle or the tool. I had a grassroots core team.”

The newly elected MLA spent the day putting up thank-you signs around the riding and taking other signs off of lawns. Several neighbours stopped by to offer their congratulations.

A few constituents admitted they did not vote for him, but were curious what he was going to do.

“I will work hard for them. That’s the only promise I’ve made,” Ince said.

Ince said his biggest priority will be to listen to his constituents. He admitted that he hasn’t gone down to the Legislature other than to sit outside and watch what’s going on, but that will soon change.

“I’m feeling a little nervous and apprehensive. One should be I believe. If you don’t have a bit of that nervousness, then I equate it to being cocky and being overconfident,” he said.

Ince said he will spend the next few days with his family, letting the news sink in before his new full-time job begins.

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