Tories take commanding lead as polls report in Nova Scotia byelection in Pictou West

  • Canadian Press

PICTOU, N.S. — Nova Scotia’s governing Progressive Conservatives appeared poised to easily retain the riding of Pictou West in a byelection held Tuesday.

First−time Tory candidate Marco MacLeod had well over twice as many votes as the three other candidates combined, according to the Elections Nova Scotia website, with 23 of 29 polls reporting about an hour after polls closed.

The NDP’s Melinda MacKenzie, who is a school teacher and a member of Pictou town council, was well back of MacLeod, followed by Liberal Mary Wooldridge−Elliott, a school bus driver and member of Pictou County council who finished a distant second in the riding in the 2021 provincial election.

Clare Brett, a singer−songwriter and caregiver who also ran in 2021 for the Green Party of Nova Scotia, trailed in fourth.

The byelection became necessary with the sudden retirement early last month of the legislature’s speaker, Karla MacFarlane, who had held the riding since 2013.

With the win, the Tories hold 33 seats in the 55−seat legislature, while the Liberals have 15, the NDP has six seats and there is one Independent.

In an interview last week MacLeod, who runs a small custom lumber mill on his family farm, said he was conscious of the need to establish his own presence despite his party’s perceived strength in the electoral district.

Premier Tim Houston, who represents the neighbouring riding of Pictou East, called the byelection soon after MacFarlane announced her retirement, despite having up to six months to do so.

MacFarlane easily won the seat for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2021 general election with nearly 64 per cent of the vote, but the riding that includes the town of Pictou had gone to the NDP for a decade before MacFarlane’s election.

The state of the province’s health−care system and the cost of living were among the main issues raised by voters during the campaign.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press