Liberals win 2 N.S. byelections

In two provincial byelections in Nova Scotia Tuesday, Geoff MacLellan easily won the seat in the district of Glace Bay, while voters in Yarmouth delivered a decisive victory for Zach Churchill.

Liberal candidates won two provincial byelections in Nova Scotia on Tuesday.

Geoff MacLellan easily won the seat in the district of Glace Bay, while voters in Yarmouth delivered a decisive victory for Zach Churchill, who received more than half the total votes, according to unofficial results.

The results keep Premier Darrell Dexter's NDP government at 31 seats in the 52-seat legislature to 12 seats for the Liberals, eight for the Tories and one Independent.

Dexter congratulated MacLellan and Churchill for their wins, saying "the people of Yarmouth and Glace Bay have spoken."

In his acceptance speech, Churchill highlighted the challenges ahead in Yarmouth.

"There have been businesses closing, people are out of work, fishermen are bringing catches ashore to prices that are lower than ever, we no longer have a ferry. These are major challenges. A government and an MLA can't come in with a magic wand and fix everything."

MacLellan said he plans to bring change to Glace Bay.

"From day one my message was that it's time for a new direction and a new generation of leadership," he said. "The people really responded and I think by the results tonight it's obvious that people have given me that mandate."

The Glace Bay election was held to replace Liberal MLA Dave Wilson, who resigned on March 11. He didn't give a reason, but stepped down after refusing to meet with the province's auditor general about expense claims.

Tory Richard Hurlburt quit as MLA for Yarmouth on Feb. 9 after it became known that he spent $8,000 of taxpayers' money on a generator installed in his house.

In February, Auditor General Jacques Lapointe launched a forensic investigation into possible irregularities in MLA expense account spending.

In his 142-page annual report, Lapointe slammed the province's expense system, saying several politicians had filed "excessive and unreasonable" claims, noting Hurlburt's generator.

Wilson had held his Cape Breton seat for nearly 11 years.

In an email to members of the news media, Wilson did not elaborate on why he was quitting politics. But shortly after his resignation was announced, Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil revealed that Lapointe had requested a meeting with Wilson.

"It was a very clear message that the voters of Glace Bay and Yarmouth have sent to government and to Nova Scotians," McNeil said Tuesday night. "There is obviously a great deal of unrest and unhappiness with the direction this government is going and they've been pleased with … the message we've had over the past year."

Official election results will be validated by returning officers within the next few days.

With files from The Canadian Press