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Parties & Leaders
CBC Online News | Updated June 2, 2006
Francis MacKenzie has two battles: one to win a seat in the legislature, the other to lift the Liberal party from its third-party status.
"He has a lot at stake," says David Johnson, a political scientist at Cape Breton University. "If he doesn't do well, the party may reassess his leadership."
MacKenzie took over the reins of the Liberal party from Danny Graham, who stepped down in December, 2003 to help his wife in her fight against cancer.
The Bedford businessman ran against Graham in 2002 and lost. Undaunted, MacKenzie ran again for the leadership, defeating longtime Liberal Richie Mann by a vote of 5,047 to 2,389 on Oct. 23, 2004.
From that point on, MacKenzie had to lead from the sidelines. With no seat in the legislature, he had no voice in debates and in committee work.
By missing Question Period, MacKenzie may have become invisible to some Nova Scotians.
A March 2006 poll by Corporate Research Associates has him trailing behind the other two party leaders in popularity. When asked who they would prefer as premier, 36 per cent of respondents picked Rodney MacDonald, compared to 23 per cent for Darrell Dexter and 16 per cent for MacKenzie.
However, the Liberal party fares better in that same poll. The Liberals and New Democrats are almost tied for second-place, with 27 per cent support versus 29 per cent, respectively. Both parties trail the Tories, who are at 36 per cent.
MacKenzie has been an outspoken critic of the governing Tories, accusing them of living in a "fantasy world" as they promise to both cut taxes and increase spending in the 2006-07 budget.
In fact, the Liberals have voted against two budgets since the Tories were reduced to a minority government in 2003. The NDP, on the other hand, supported the Tories.
One longtime Liberal, Cape Breton West MLA Russell MacKinnon, quit the party in April 2005, citing a difference of opinion. After that, he sat as an Independent.
After MacKinnon left and Graham resigned his Halifax Citadel seat to devote time to his family, the Liberals found themselves with only 10 seats in the legislature.
Dave Johnson says the Liberals will have to duke it out with the Tories and the NDP over the middle ground.
"They need to appeal to the centre."
MacKenzie appears to be trying to do that with his gas-tax scheme, for example. The Liberals propose to cap one of the provincial taxes on gasoline as a way of lowering skyrocketing gas prices for consumers.
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Born:May 7, 1960, in St. John's, N.L.; grew up in Sydney.
Education:Graduated from St. Francis Xavier with Bachelor of Business Administration in 1982; Master of Business Administration from Saint Mary's University in 1992.
Employment:Executive director of Town of Bedford's Economic Development Commission from 1991-96. VP/general manager of Greater Halifax Partnership from 1996-97. Hired as executive director of investment and trade for Department of Economic Development in 1997.
Politics:Chosen as leader of Nova Scotia Liberal Party on Oct. 23, 2004.
Family:Wife Gladys; children Theodore, Elizabeth, Allison and Rachel.
Progressive Conservative leader Rodney MacDonald became premier of Nova Scotia by winning the Progressive Conservative leadership just three months ago.
New Democratic Party leader Darrell Dexter
Liberal leader Francis MacKenzie has two battles: one to win a seat in the legislature, the other to lift the Liberal party from its third-party status.
Green Party leader Nick Wright looks at it this way: the Green party in Nova Scotia is a winner even before the province's voters go to the polls on June 13.