Nova Scotia·Q&A

Speaking to the candidate who won in the biggest upset of the election

The successful candidate who replaced a Liberal cabinet minister in the biggest upset of the Nova Scotia election said the race could have gone either way.

Progressive Conservative Alana Paon took Michel Samson's seat in Cape Breton-Richmond by just 20 votes

Liberal MLA Michel Samson lost his seat by 20 votes to Progressive Conservative Alana Paon in the riding of Cape Breton-Richmond. In 2013, Samson took 50 per cent of the vote. (PC Party & CBC)

The candidate who defeated Liberal cabinet minister Michel Samson — a veteran MLA first elected in 1998 — in the biggest upset of the Nova Scotia election said the race could have gone either way. 

Progressive Conservative Alana Paon nabbed Samson's seat in Cape Breton-Richmond by just 20 votes. In 2013, Samson took 50 per cent of the vote.

The CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton caught up with Paon on Wednesday to talk about her squeaker of a win.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CBC: What was going through your mind watching the agonizingly close race?

Paon: "Well, it certainly was, as most people are describing, a nail-biter and we went well into the night and well into this morning as well waiting for results to come in. So you know it was a very, very tight race and I very much appreciate everyone who actually stuck it out right until the very end with us until we knew the result. 

So certainly it could have gone either way, but at the end of the day, the constituents made their voice heard and they decided to make a change." 

CBC: With just 20 votes separating, Samson could ask for a recount. Any indication that will happen? 

Paon: "We haven't had any indication of that at all. It was probably about 2, 2:30 this morning when I heard from Michel's campaign saying that he wanted to chat with me. 

So we spoke for a few moments last night and he congratulated me and I appreciated him reaching out, but there was no indication from him that there would be a recount at that time."

CBC: Do you feel like this is a vote for you or a vote against the Liberals?

Paon: "I think that it was a vote for change and I'm not going to say that it was a vote against Michel....On the doorstep, I was really told again and again that people did not appreciate all the cutbacks in the last 3½ years. And then right at the end of the day, at the eleventh hour, that there just seemed to be money for everything and people really were quite incensed by that."

CBC: What did voters see in you that they didn't see in Samson? 

Paon: "If we don't listen and we don't ask the politician what people need, then we really can't properly represent the constituency and the concern of the constituency within the legislature, and I truly believe that that is what people really saw in me. I do want to engage and I do want to fully represent everyone in the constituency and give everyone a voice at the legislature." 

CBC: What areas do you need to focus on, do some outreach, because it is such a geographically diverse constituency?

Paon: "It really is and I think that diversity makes us stronger, and I think divisive politics, of course, makes us weaker. And so I really want to focus in on the fact that we really are a big, beautiful, diverse constituency and I look forward to meeting more people as I go throughout this process."

CBC: Local representation is really important to you. Does that mean going against the party line when you're in the assembly? 

Paon: "Well, I guess that's something that I will have to deal with as time goes on. I'm going to be frank with you, today is just the first day and it's the first day for new opportunities and to walk a different path.

And so at the end of the day, really, an MLA, your advisory council is your constituents. And with that said, the advisory council made a decision basically that they wanted new representation. So if you're not representing your constituents at the legislature, they can vote you out. I'm coming from the ground up as far as working with boards and so forth, so my viewpoints are perhaps a bit different when it comes to politics."

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton