Nova Scotia’s next premier, Liberal leader to be announced Saturday night

The votes have been cast, and Nova Scotians will soon learn who will be their next premier.

Almost 97 per cent of 8,100 Nova Scotia Liberal Party delegates cast their ballots by the deadline of 3 p.m. AT on Saturday. The first results of the ranked ballot are expected at 6:30 p.m. AT, and CBC News will be streaming the results live.

Former Liberal cabinet ministers Randy Delorey, Labi Kousoulis and Iain Rankin are vying for the top prize.

The leadership convention was made necessary after Premier Stephen McNeil announced last summer that he would not seek re-election in the next provincial campaign.

The Liberals are using a ranked ballot system, allowing delegates to rank the three candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives 50 per cent plus one of the points after the first ballot, the third-place finisher is dropped from the race.

The second choice on the ballots of the dropped candidate are then distributed to the other two candidates to determine a winner. Each of the province’s electoral districts are worth 100 points, with points awarded based on vote share.

An understated campaign

The campaign has been a largely understated affair due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the process, public health protocols forced all three campaigns to go fully virtual, with no physical interaction between the candidates and prospective supporters.

Instead, candidates hosted online and telephone town halls to meet with people and to share their ideas. The three party-sanctioned debates were also virtual events.

Even Saturday’s convention will have just a handful of people in attendance, with each candidate and his team having their own rooms and not being able to interact.

Rankin, the former lands and forestry minister, has positioned himself as the most environmentally minded of the three. He has pledged to get the province off coal and increase its use of renewable energy years ahead of the schedule established by McNeil.

Several weeks for transition

Kousoulis, meanwhile, framed much of his campaign around support for small business as the economy tries to recover from the pandemic. The former labour minister and small business operator has also promised an extensive road-building plan.

Delorey, the former health minister, attempted to make the campaign a referendum on who is best positioned to lead the province’s continued response to COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccines. It was Delorey’s contention that as a former health minister, he knows the file best.

While the winner tonight immediately becomes the party’s new leader, it will likely be several weeks before he is sworn in as premier. McNeil remains premier until the premier-designate and his cabinet are sworn in by the lieutenant governor.

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