HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is leaving politics, saying he stayed on longer than he’d planned in order to lead the province through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Liberal premier said Thursday that after 17 years in provincial politics, he decided it’s time for a change, and he’s ready for a rest.
“I’m not leaving because I don’t like the job. I love the job as a matter of fact, and I’ve had tremendous support,” he said during a news conference.
“Many people are surprised today that I work with, and I’m sure many Nova Scotians are surprised.” He said he concluded that a change in leadership is “the right thing for the province.”
McNeil, who was elected premier in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, said he will stay on until the Liberals choose a new leader.
He said he had initially planned to leave in the spring, but the pandemic postponed those plans.
“I was actually going to make this decision in April and then COVID-19 hit and I re-evaluated,” he said.
“Then we (Nova Scotia) flattened the curve and there was an opportunity for the party to prepare for a leadership contest and a new leader.”
The announcement caught many off guard as the premier had previously said he expected to attempt a third term, and McNeil says he only advised his caucus of the decision this morning.
He says he considers his key accomplishments to include promoting growth of the private sector and keeping a handle on the cost of public sector wages.
“There’s lots of people that still tell me we got it wrong, I think we absolutely got it right,” he said.
“People would say I’ve taken a whole lot of things away from unionized employees in the province. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I just slowed the growth (of wages) .... It allowed us to invest in other parts of our economy.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2020.