Stephen McNeil becomes leader of the Nova Scotia Liberals

Monday, April 30, 2007

McNeil makes his acceptance speech Saturday, at the Dartmouth Sportplex, after winning on the second ballot.
During the campaign, McNeil and the other candidates met up with Dalhousie journalism student Gillian Cormier.

Stephen McNeil, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Annapolis County, Nova Scotia in Canada, is now the head of an even bigger family.

McNeil, the 12th of 17 children, was voted the new leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party at the leadership convention on Saturday.

"For the people who said Liberalism in Nova Scotia is on life support, I say look at this room," said McNeil. "The Tory [Conservative] government in Nova Scotia is on life support."

"We know with your support we can be the next government of Nova Scotia," he said.

Just under 1400 delegates came out to the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia Sportsplex to vote for the new leader of the party. McNeil won the leadership on the second ballot, receiving 718 votes.

The second ballot came down to just McNeil and Diana Whalen, MLA for Halifax-West Clayton Park. Whalen finished with 650 votes.

McNeil is taking over from interim leader Michel Samson, who held the position after former leader Francis MacKenzie resigned after the dismal 2006 provincial election that left the Liberals with only nine seats. MacKenzie had been leader of the party since 2004.

Our Liberal Party stands at the threshold of immense promise and opportunity. Each of us has an important role to play in helping achieve this goal. Let's make it our primary objective to restore the Nova Scotia Liberal Party as a unified force in Nova Scotia politics. As Leader, I will work together with each of you to build our party's unity through hard work and dedication and to re-establish the Liberal Party's rightful place in Nova Scotia politics.

As your leader, I am committed to making sure that every time this government turns its back on the people of Nova Scotia, they will hear me roar.

— Stephen McNeil, on winning the Liberal leadership

McNeil has a lofty task before him. The Nova Scotia Liberals have been stuck as a third party for the past eight years. The party has also struggled to fine unity and direction —this was the third Liberal leadership convention since 2002.

"I understand the awesome responsibility I asked for," said McNeil. "This has truly been a great campaign and a rebirth of our party."

The first ballot required a majority of 699 votes to win. McNeil received 571 votes, Kenzie MacKinnon 169, Mike Smith 255 and Whalen 402.

After the results of the first ballot, fourth-place candidate MacKinnon marched his cheering supporters to the other side of the stadium to lend his support to Whalen.

There was a dramatic pause as delegates waited to see if Smith would stick around for the second ballot or free his delegates.

McNeil supporters stood in front on Smith's section and tossed Smith supporters McNeil t-shirts in hopes of gaining their support. Whalen's supporters cheered on the other side.

Then, in a move that surprised many of Smith's supporters, he hugged Whalen and offered her his support.

However, unlike the MacKinnon supporters who waved both "Kenzie" and McNeil placards, Smith's supporters were seen waving Smith/McNeil and Smith/Whalen signs. Support was split. But by the end of the first ballot, McNeil only needed just over a third of the bottom two candidates' supporter's votes to win.

McNeil thanked his competitors after the win, and said he hoped to see Smith and MacKinnon in the legislature after the next election. He also thanked his mother —the woman he credited with introducing him to Liberalism, and his constituency.

"To the people of Annapolis—look how far you've taken this country boy," said McNeil.

During his campaign, McNeil also promised to hold a youth summit within 30 days on winning the leadership and a presidents' summit within 90 days. He said tomorrow—after his son's confirmation, he would begin work on these two events.

The leadership convention was hosted by the Nova Scotia Federal Liberal Caucus.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  Learn more about Stephen McNeil and Nova Scotia Liberal Party leadership election, 2007 on Wikipedia.