Stephen McNeil about family, community, and making lives better in Nova Scotia
By Lawrence Powell
“I’m very proud of the fact I’m from Upper Granville, Annapolis County. I said from the very beginning, we can start this change here. We did, and now we’ve swept it across the province,” Stephen McNeil told The Spectator as the lights and cameras were being taken down at the Bridgetown Curling Club Oct. 8.
“We have an opportunity, together, to govern – set a course for our province that includes all corners of Nova Scotia.”
While there were some hard-hitting tactics during the month-long provincial election campaign, McNeil, the Liberal leader, stayed above the fray, campaigning on a modest platform based on family and community values.
“Thanks so much everyone for the support that you’ve shown me during this campaign – really for the last 10 years,” McNeil said. “I can’t thank you enough. It’s been a great campaign and now the work begins – and I’ll need your help.”
Earlier in the evening, McNeil’s provincial campaign chair Chris MacInnes was keeping an eye on results as they came in. And as seats were being declared behind him on big-screen TVs, he talked about the campaign and how he and the Liberal team got McNeil to what was obviously becoming a commanding majority.
“You’ll notice in the last three days, Stephen visited between 30 and 40 unheld ridings,” MacInnes said. “That was a very deliberate decision to only visit unheld ridings in the last several days to get our message to as many Nova Scotians as possible in as quick a time as possible. Some of the stops were only five to 10 minutes long, but it was important for Stephen and the team that he visit those ridings – because, as he said from Day 1, there are no safe seats in this election and he was determined to visit as many ridings as he could, which he did. I would say it’s safe to say he visited more ridings more often than the other leaders.”
By Sept. 22, McNeil had travelled 3,000 kilometres on the campaign bus, stopping in Annapolis on the 16th day of the campaign. By Oct. 7, when he arrived back home, the bus had travelled an additional 4,800 kilometres, ending its month-long journey at the Bridgetown Curling Club.
“I think you can expect to trust Stephen, and to trust the platform,” MacInnes said.
“The platform was a very comprehensive and realistic document put together with very realistic goals, on which Stephen insisted. As he said several times during the campaign, you won’t see him apologizing the day after the campaign for saying things were worse than he thought they were. So all of his promises were made, all of our promises were made in that light – very realistic and achievable goals.”
Education, healthcare, ending the Nova Scotia Power monopoly and ending corporate handouts were the major planks in the Liberal platform and McNeil has said Liberal goals can be met with additional revenues of one-half of one per cent.
Harold (Junior) Theriault had few doubts about McNeil landing a majority government in the October 8 vote. The day before the election, the retired Clare-Digby (formerly Annapolis-Digby) Liberal MLA was in Middleton with McNeil, where he talked about his friend.
“I think he’s going to be a wonderful premier,” Theriault said. “He’s going to be just what he’s saying. He’s asking people to trust him. I’ve known Stephen for 11 years and I’d trust him with my life. I hope Nova Scotians tomorrow feel the same way. That’s what I feel about Steve.”
Theriault said he believes the lives of Nova Scotians will be better.
“When the people of Nova Scotia truly get to know Stephen McNeil, and know his background, and know how he was brought up – 17 children in the family and the father not around and the mother bringing them up – they’re really true, down to earth people who know people. I mean just in their family alone – what they know about life here in Nova Scotia. It blows my mind. I think if Stephen can, Stephen is going to make people’s lives better in this province.”
On Oct. 9, McNeil was back in Halifax to announce the creation of a transition committee he said will immediately begin work to prepare the new Liberal government to assume office.
“Now that the campaign is over, it is time to get to work on implementing our balanced and thoughtful plan to make families and businesses stronger throughout our province,” said McNeil. “The transition team represents diversity, experience, and a strong dedication to the people of this province. I am looking forward to working with the chair and the committee to ensure we have a smooth, efficient, and effective transition to a new provincial government.”
GrowthWorks Atlantic CEO and president Thomas J. Hayes will chair the committee. MacInnes will be on the committee, along with Danny Graham QC, Liberal cabinet minister Robbie Harrison, Mount Saint Vincent president Ramona Lumpkin, retired businessman and farmer Don Sproule, and Chris Hornberger, partner of Halifax Global Inc.