Nova Scotia

About 8,100 people register as delegates to select next Nova Scotia premier

The Nova Scotia Liberal Party released final delegate numbers on Wednesday, ahead of next month’s leadership convention.

Votes will be cast from Feb. 1-6 as part of virtual leadership convention

Iain Rankin, Randy Delorey and Labi Kousoulis are running to lead Nova Scotia's Liberal Party, replacing Premier Stephen McNeil, who is stepping down. (CBC)

The fate of the three men vying to be the next premier of Nova Scotia rests in the hands of about 8,100 people.

The Nova Scotia Liberal Party released final delegate numbers on Wednesday, ahead of next month's leadership convention.

Jane O'Neill, one of the campaign co-chairs, called the number "a great achievement" for the party and candidates Randy Delorey, Labi Kousoulis and Iain Rankin.

"It's been a difficult process through COVID, but our candidates have been reaching out to new Liberals and old Liberals from across the province and we're very pleased with the number of delegates," she said in an interview.

COVID-19 has created a number of challenges for the candidates, not the least of which has been an inability to travel the province and meet with people in person for the majority of the four-month campaign. Candidates have instead relied on working the phones and holding virtual town halls. The party's three debates were also conducted virtually.

Party membership grows to almost 16,000

Membership ranks for the party swelled during the campaign, which kicked off in October. In September, the party had 9,300 members. As of Jan. 7, that figure was just shy of 16,000, according to the party.

To be eligible to vote for the next leader and premier, people had to be a member of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party by Jan. 7 and pay $20 to register as a delegate. (The membership is a dual membership with the provincial and federal Liberal parties.)

O'Neill said the growth in membership shows the level of interest in who will become the party's next leader and premier of the province, replacing Stephen McNeil, who is retiring from politics.

"The individual who's going to lead the province as premier — that's an important position," she said.

"We have many challenges ahead with COVID and also with rebuilding the economy, and I think Nova Scotians want to have a say in that."

Voting for delegates will be open from Feb. 1-6 by telephone or online. O'Neill said they've made the process as easy as possible in order to encourage delegates to cast their ballot. The winner will be decided using a ranked ballot and will be announced on Feb. 6 as part of a two-day virtual convention.