Nova Scotia’s new premier will be sworn in at a ceremony at the Halifax Convention Centre on Tuesday. Iain Rankin was chosen by the Liberal Party as its new leader and the province’s premier earlier this month.
The leadership race was held after Premier Stephen McNeil announced over the summer that he would be stepping down.
Rankin was first elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature in 2013, and has spent his entire political career under McNeil’s government, and has served as both Minister of Environment and Minister of Lands and Forestry.
“He was a McNeil minister, but I think he’s somebody who’s got an opportunity to build his own brand,” said Lori Turnbull a political scientist with Dalhousie University.
At 37 years old, Rankin will be one of the youngest premiers in the province’s history and has already designated himself as someone representing generational change. During the leadership campaign, he also touted himself as the most green candidate, outlining what he calls bold climate action which includes plans for the province to reach 80 percent renewable energy use by 2030.
“We were pleased with his platform, we felt it was ambitious and specific and I would say we’re cautiously optimistic now,” says Maggy Burns with environmental group Ecology Action Centre.
“The trick of course with a platform is to put it into action, and we’re long overdue for more strong action on the environment in Nova Scotia.”
Rankin’s platform also includes plans to enhance food security and expand markets for Nova Scotia’s food products, to address social and racial justice, and address equity in education in party by updating the curriculum to better reflect histories of African Nova Scotians and Mi’kmaq.
But one major hurdle for Rankin will be time. He has just over a year before he has to call an election.
“Some of the measure’s he’s talking about, those are medium to long-term things, so he’s going to have a challenge in terms of getting something done that he can put in the windows of voters,” said Turnbull.
Rankin will also limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He’s going to be stuck with the reality of COVID, and maybe not have the kind of runway and the kind of room he would want to talk about the issues he would want to define his term as Premier,” said Turnbull.
“To do anything other than entirely focus on COVID-19 would look irresponsible.”
Before Rankin gets started on any files, though, he will first have to chose his cabinet. Turnbull says with the health and economic issues of the pandemic, it will make sense for the new premier to keep some of the more experienced members within the caucus at the table. Already, Rankin has indicated he will be asking both Randy Delorey and Labi Kousoulis, who ran against him in the leadership race, to join him.
However, there will likely be new faces. A number of current ministers have already announced they will not be seeking re-election, including Justice Minister Mark Furey, Business Minister Geoff MacLellan, Environment Minister Gordon Wilson and Finance Minister Karen Casey.
“”I’m interested to see what he does with the finance portfolio,” said Turnbull.
“The logistics of replacing a finance minister during such a critical time economically, it’s hard to get your mind around that.”
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