Nova Scotia

Tories win minority, lose two seats

The Progressive Conservatives have held on to power in Nova Scotia, but at the cost of two precious seats.

The Progressive Conservatives have held on to power in Nova Scotia, but at the cost of two precious seats.

The Tories did not have enough momentum to win a majority but were successful in taking 23 seats compared to 20 for the NDP and nine for the Liberals. The Tories won 40 per cent of the popular vote, the NDP 35, Liberals 24, and Greens 2.3.

Leader Rodney MacDonald, 34, was one of the first Tories elected Tuesday night, winning his seat in Inverness.

MacDonald thanked his supporters and made a point of thanking Nova Scotians who voted for other parties. "Thank you for making your voice heard in this democracy," he said.

Breakdown of seats:
PC - 23 (25 at dissolution)
NDP - 20 (15)
LIB - 9 (10)

He vowed to work with the other parties to bring "good government" to Nova Scotia and concluded: "I will always lead a government that puts the people of Nova Scotia first."

The gap between the Tories and the New Democrats has now narrowed, with the NDP winning 20 seats, the most it has ever won.

"Tonight we have won seats that a few years ago no one would ever have put in the NDP column," NDP Leader Darrell Dexter told his cheering supporters.

He credited the NDP's strong showing with the party's willingness to work with the last Tory minority government, and he pledged to keep working with MacDonald "on the issues that matter most."

Nova Scotia now has its third minority government in four elections.

MacDonald inherited a minority when he took over the Tory leadership from John Hamm in February.

With polls suggesting his popularity was on the rise, the new premier called the election just three months into his new job, hoping to win his own mandate and a majority from voters.

The fiddler from Mabou launched his campaign on May 13 saying this election was about which party had the best plan for Nova Scotia families.

There was no one issue dominating the campaign. Instead, the parties offered up a grab bag of promises, targeting everyone from seniors to university students.

Political pundits said the Tory promises added up to between $1 billion and $2 billion over four years, while the Liberals made $1.5 billion worth of promises and the NDP's list was worth about $500 million.

The leaders had one chance to debate on television and pull ahead of the others, but it was largely a draw, according to many observers.

Several days later, a poll seemed to shake up the campaign. It suggested Liberal support was collapsing and the election was a two-way race between the Tories and the NDP.

With the campaign coming to a close, both MacDonald and the NDP's Dexter said it would be important to get supporters out to vote because there were a number of close races.

Much at stake

The Tories have governed Nova Scotia since 1999. But the party, under leader John Hamm, lost their majority in 2003, winning only 25 of 52 seats.

To win a bare majority, the party needed to take 27 seats.

MacDonald's gamble to call the election now cost him not only two seats but also a cabinet minister. Kerry Morash, who held the economic development portfolio, lost a close race in Queens.

The NDP was trying to become the first-ever New Democrat government in Atlantic Canada. The party scored its best-ever result, picking up extra seats in rural districts. With 20, the NDP beats its previous record of 19 seats in 1998.

For the Liberals, who won a minority government in 1998, the goal was to rise from their third-party status in the legislature. But the party, which failed to field a full slate of candidates, ended the night with nine seats and leader Francis MacKenzie failed to win his own district of Bedford.

If MacKenzie resigns, the Nova Scotia Liberals will be looking for a new leader for the fourth time in less than 10 years.

The newest party on the block, the Green Party of Nova Scotia, ran a full slate of 52 candidates. It ended up with more than two per cent of the popular vote.