HALIFAX—Nova Scotia’s Liberals named a youthful former cabinet minister and self−described agent of generational change to take the helm as they voted Saturday for Iain Rankin to become party leader and the province’s next premier.
Rankin, 37, edged out two of his fellow former cabinet ministers in the three−man race to succeed Premier Stephen McNeil, whose retirement announcement last summer triggered the leadership contest that played out virtually due to the COVID−19 pandemic.
Rankin, who once served as McNeil’s lands and forestry minister, garnered just over 52 percent of the vote after a second ballot. He defeated former labour minister Labi Kousoulis and Randy Delorey, who held the province’s health, finance, and environment portfolios under McNeil.
Rankin, who ran on a platform of linking environmental and economic concerns, vowed during his acceptance speech to be a collaborative leader when he succeeds McNeil as premier on a yet unnamed date.
He also said his election signals the Liberal Party accepted his focus on climate issues during the campaign.
“This is about what people want to see next. They want to see action on climate change. They want to see us continuing down the path of righting historic wrongs,” he said during a news conference after his win.
“The party, by and large, wants to see action in those areas.”
Rankin, who entered the leadership race on Oct. 5, was the youngest of the three candidates vying for the top job and will be among the youngest premiers in the province’s history.
He secured endorsements from high−profile party members such as ex−party leader Vince MacLean and former deputy premier and finance minister Diana Whalen.
Born in Cape Breton, he was raised in Timberlea, N.S., where he developed interests in sports and music. He currently represents the Halifax−area riding of Timberlea−Prospect.
Rankin said he’s only a distant cousin to the musical recording artists from Mabou with the same surname, but has delved into his Gaelic ancestry and culture, studied at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, N.S, and has learned to play the bagpipes.
He went on to become a member of the Dartmouth Pipes and Drum Band.
He also studied at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax while helping to run the family gas station in Beechville, N.S. Rankin moved on to work in small business before entering politics.
One of his campaign pledges involved a promise to end the province’s use of coal to generate electricity by 2030, as well as a goal of having 80 percent of Nova Scotia’s energy coming from renewable sources by that same year.