A day of hellos and goodbyes for Nova Scotia politicians

HALIFAX – It was a day of change in Halifax as one political party said their goodbyes while another held its first caucus meeting.

On Tuesday, the NDP held its final caucus meeting in downtown Halifax. After soaring to victory in 2009 by winning 31 seats, the party was left decimated in last week’s provincial election, winning just seven seats.

NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said caucus members discussed the past and the future during their last meeting.

“People were very proud of the work they did while they were in government. I just summed up the work we had done over the past number of years,” he said.

“We were just talking to each other and congratulating what we’re now calling ‘the samurai seven’ — the ones who were left behind,” he said with a chuckle.

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Dexter admitted it will be tough for the party to recover from the crushing blow of the election.

“It’s going to be a big job for them. It’s always a big job when government changes. Your thinking has to immediately roll over to your role in keeping the government accountable and that’s what they will do,” he said.

He also brushed off questions about whether he will soon resign as party leader.

“What I’ve said to people is: I really work for the party. … I’m going to take some time over the next little while and think over those kinds of things.”

He noted he is now in a period of reflection and is considering his next move.

“This is the end of one kind of job I’ve had in political life. Whether that means that’s the end of political life or not, that’s the kind of thing I’m going to think about,” he said. “But I’ve always been an activist. I’ve always had a busy life. I know for sure that won’t change.”

Many other former cabinet members dodged requests for comments.

Former finance minister Maureen MacDonald, who won in a tight race in Halifax Needham, declined comment, as did former education minister Ramona Jennex, who was defeated.

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Leonard Preyra, former culture and heritage minister, was defeated in his riding of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island. He said Tuesday’s meeting was bittersweet.

“It’s a difficult day. It’s always hard to say goodbye to some people. It’s always hard to talk about transitions and where we go,” he said.

He said although the party will review what went wrong, he and others are keeping a positive outlook on things.

“Some people are excited at the prospect of spending some more time with the people they love and the causes they’ve enjoyed working with.”

Preyra said he will return to his teaching roots and will continue being an activist. But there are other ways he will spend his time.

“I recently got married,” he said. “I’d like to spend some time with [my wife] and do some traveling.”

The newly elected Progressive Conservatives held their first caucus meeting just down the street Tuesday afternoon.

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The 11 new and returning MLAs clapped and cheered when party leader Jaime Baillie walked into the room.

The PC Party improved its standing from third to second in last week’s election.

Baillie said he is looking forward to being “the official opposition with gusto” and intends to keep the Liberals accountable.

“We will certainly hold them to account when they go off track but for now, we want to give them a chance to do what they said they would do,” he said.

Baillie said the PC party made “a big step forward” by increasing its MLAs from seven to 11.

“To me, it’s important to get off on the right footing and that’s why I wanted to see everyone today.”

In the Liberal camp, Leader Stephen McNeil announced Kirby McVicar as his chief of staff on Tuesday.

McVicar has been the chief of staff for the Liberal caucus office since 2011. He has also worked as the director of national operations for Eastlink Cable Systems.

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