Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives scored a surprise election victory over the ruling Liberals on Tuesday after capitalizing on the early setbacks of their main opponent and promising a big-spending solution to the troubled healthcare system.

During the campaign, Conservative leader Tim Houston unveiled a left-wing platform that promised hundreds of millions of dollars in the first year of the party’s term to increase the number of family doctors, strengthen the mental health system and create more beds. in nursing homes.

The message got the voters. With five constituencies pending to convene Tuesday night, the Progressive Conservatives were elected or led in 31 constituencies, with 28 seats required for a majority in the recently expanded 55-seat legislature. At the time of dissolution, the party had 17 seats.

A beaming Houston, who won the lead three years ago, walked into his party headquarters at a sports facility near New Glasgow, NS, punching his fans to the beat of John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.”

In his victory speech, Houston said the public responded to the solutions he presented and decided not to simply reward liberals for competently handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Regardless of what the polls say, what we know is that if they provide real solutions to real problems, voters will pay attention,” the 51-year-old certified public accountant told the crowd.

“Not just here in Nova Scotia, but across Canada, we show that just because there is a pandemic does not mean that the government has a free pass.”

As the victory celebrations unfolded, fans of the match spoke of a big change from the start of the race.

“We are ecstatic,” Tara Miller said with a laugh. Miller, co-chairman of the Conservative campaign, said the party was able to rise in the polls from far behind earlier this summer.

The Houston party has also become the first to topple a government in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other elections that have taken place during the course of the health crisis – in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Yukon and Saskatchewan – saw incumbent leaders remain in power.

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Liberal leader Iain Rankin told his supporters in Halifax that he had no immediate plans to resign, despite the resounding defeat. As of late Tuesday night, the results indicated that his party led or was elected in 17 constituencies, compared to 24.

Conservatives emerge to upset the majority victory in #NS # election with a campaign focused on health. #NSPoli #NovaScotia

“I will continue to lead this party,” he said in his award speech. “I will continue to do all I can to fight for each and every person in Nova Scotia to make sure we have a voice,” said the 38-year-old, who had been Canada’s youngest prime minister.

Voters toppled several longtime Liberal cabinet ministers in party strongholds, including Health and Transportation ministers, and brought the Conservatives back to power for the first time since 2009.

The NDP, led by United Church Minister Gary Burrill, had five seats in the dissolution and four hours after the polls closed, party members were elected or led in six constituencies.

Burrill campaigned on a traditionally progressive platform that called for a $ 15 minimum wage, 10 paid sick days for all workers, and rent control.

“In our party we have placed these real life issues of real people at the center of our campaign discourse,” the 66-year-old leader told supporters Tuesday night.

Before the 32-day race began, ruling liberals were leading the polls, having won praise for their handling of the pandemic. But the party stumbled just before the election campaign began.

Rankin revealed in July that he had been convicted of drunk driving as a young man in 2003 and 2005. He provided few details about the second conviction, which was thrown out in court. The lack of disclosure surrounding the second case prompted a series of unflattering media reports.

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And in the first week of the campaign, the Liberals faced more negative headlines after a Liberal candidate allegedly was pressured by party staff to drop out of the race because she had previously sold revealing photos of herself on the OnlyFans website. Robyn Ingraham said the party had told her to cite her mental health problems as the reason for her departure on the first day of the campaign, which she did in writing before releasing her version of events.

As the campaign approached the halfway point, Rankin remained on the defensive during a leaders’ debate in which Houston and Burrill shot the prime minister for his record in health care. In particular, Houston criticized the prime minister for failing to address a chronic shortage of doctors that has left more than 70,000 Nova Scotians without a primary care physician.

Houston has said a conservative government would spend $ 553 million during its first year in office to deliver on campaign promises, primarily to improve health care.

Rankin, who was elected to lead the Liberal Party in February, argued that his party’s planned investments in health care were sensible. “What we don’t need is a competition over who can invest more money in an issue,” the former business manager said during the debate.

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin was the only independent chosen. The former conservative was expelled from the caucus for her participation in a COVID-19 protest that closed the Trans-Canada Highway in June of this year, but nonetheless managed to defeat former Liberal MP Bill Casey, who came out of retirement to try to challenge by the seat.

The election saw the return of the protected Acadian districts of Richmond, Argyle, and Clare, as well as Nova Scotia’s predominantly African leadership in Preston, bringing the total number of seats to 55.

This Canadian Press report was first published on August 17, 2021.

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