HALIFAX — A rookie member of the legislature is the fourth candidate and first woman to enter Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative leadership race.
Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin announced her candidacy Tuesday during an event in Amherst.
Smith-McCrossin, who represents the riding of Cumberland North, joins fellow caucus members Tim Houston and John Lohr, along with Cape Breton Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke, in the contest for the party's top job.
"I think it's the right time for me personally and I think it's the right time for the party to elect a woman as leader," Smith-McCrossin said in an interview.
Party officials said they checked records as far back as the 1940s and believe she is the first woman to vie for the party leadership, although current Liberal Finance Minister Karen Casey was the Tories' interim party leader from late 2009 until August 2010.
Smith-McCrossin's caucus colleague Karla MacFarlane is currently interim leader. She assumed the post after Jamie Baillie resigned two weeks ago following an allegation of inappropriate behaviour.
Like her caucus colleagues in the race, Smith-McCrossin said she was satisfied with a party investigation that ended with Baillie's departure, even though it didn't use the legislature's formal process under its harassment policy.
"The victim actually chose not to, it was really her decision," she said. "I applaud the leadership of the party — they did what was right."
The 48-year-old is a registered nurse who operated a health care business prior to being elected to the legislature for the first time in May 2017.
Smith-McCrossin, who grew up on a dairy farm in Linden, N.S., said she believes her rookie status as a politician shouldn't disqualify her.
"I think what makes a successful politician is someone that listens to the people, someone that's collaborative, and someone that has proven leadership, which I do have based on my last 20 years of growing my businesses and my work in the community," she said.
Currently the party's health critic, Smith-McCrossin said her priorities as leader would be economic growth and tackling problems in the province's ailing health care system.
"I've been a registered nurse for 27 years ... so I bring a real knowledge with me. I definitely have some ideas on how we can get our health system on the right track."
Smith-McCrossin will be in tough against the early perceived front-runner Houston and the high-profile Clarke, who is a former Tory cabinet minister.
Details of the leadership convention are expected to be announced during the party's annual general meeting this weekend in Halifax.