Nova Scotia Premier McNeil resigns

A photo of Premier Stephen McNeil in the legislature
Premier Stephen McNeil in the legislature in a handout photo.
Ed Halverson - QCCR - LiverpoolNS | 06-08-2020

Stephen McNeil has announced he is stepping down as premier of Nova Scotia.

McNeil began the media scrum following the weekly cabinet meeting by recounting some of the significant episodes of his tenure as premier before dropping the news he was resigning.

McNeil says he is not leaving immediately and will stay on as premier until the liberal party can elect another leader.

The premier says after 17 years he is still honoured to serve Nova Scotians, but the time has come to move on.

“I’m not tired of being premier,” says McNeil. “ I’m tired.”

McNeil says he has been contemplating stepping away from politics for months, but recommitted to the position once COVID-19 hit.

“I’m not going to leave the province I care about, the people I love, in the midst of a pandemic, with not knowing what was going to happen. So all of those plans were put on hold and I gave this my all,” says McNeil.

Now that the province is through the first wave, McNeil felt he had to make the announcement.

“I either had to say I was going or I was too late,” says the premier. “Because if I waited ‘til much later in the fall, second wave happens and we’re dealing with that, and it just wouldn’t have given the party enough time and that wouldn’t have been fair.”

The liberal party now has to elect a new leader who will take over as premier of Nova Scotia until another general election is held.

This government was elected in May 2017 and won’t have to face another until May 2022.

Even as he is stepping down, McNeil still believes his government is charting the right course for Nova Scotians.

“Two terms is a long time. Do I believe there was a third one? Yes, I do. Do I believe we could’ve been re-elected? Yes, I do. And I believe with a new leader and a new team they can still be re-elected. But it’s just time for the province and for the government to have a new leader,” says McNeil.

The premier says no-one has expressed an interest in following in his footsteps as the announcement is too new.

“I don’t think anyone knew the job was vacant until about an hour ago,” says McNeil. “And I think they all believed that I was still going.”

McNeil offered this wisdom to his eventual successor.

“My advice that I would give to anyone leading, whatever party, or wanting to be leader of a particular province, be true to who you are.”

In a prepared statement, McNeil expressed his gratitude to Nova Scotians.

“I love this job. I’ve enjoyed every day of it, and every day, I’m inspired by the people of this province. But this is not a life-long career. I’ve always believed that governing is not about power, it is about purpose,” says McNeil. “And I want to thank Nova Scotians for giving me the opportunity to be your premier. I may not have always gotten it right, but here’s what I know for sure: we are better together, and being kind, matters.”

Reported by Ed Halverson 
Twitter: @edwardhalverson