Houston family

Tim Houston, centre left, is joined by his family as he addresses those attending his victory remarks at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. From left are his wife Carol, their daughter Paget and their son Zachary. (Goodwin photo)

Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives under Tim Houston leadership have won a majority mandate for the first time in more than 20 years.

Houston won personal victory as the Tory incumbent in Pictou East, while the PCs were elected and leading in 31 seats as ballot counting resumed on Wednesday. The Tories needed 28 seats to secure a majority in the reshaped 55-seat legislature.

Once Houston is sworn in, he will relinquish his current premier-designate status and become the province’s third premier from Pictou County in a generation. The late Donald Cameron became premier while also representing Pictou East in 1992 after winning the party leadership, while John Hamm won a majority mandate in 1999 as Tory leader.

Houston arrived and was greeted heartily by a small but exuberant crowd late Tuesday at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. Victorious Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn was already there, while Karla MacFarlane arrived after Houston’s winning address to congratulate him.

Several of Houston’s supporters expressed confidence as early returns pointed to a Tory win at the expense of the incumbent governing Liberals led by Iain Rankin. The PCs secured more than a dozen constituencies previously represented by incumbent Liberals or those who did not reoffer, some of them by narrow margins. The PCs accrued a plurality of 14 seats from a difference in vote share of less than two per cent.

“I said, Tim being Tim, there’s going to be an upset,” Art Steeves said. “I saw it coming.”

“It’s a big win for Pictou County,” Stirling MacLean added.

Houston was gracious while congratulating opposing party leaders, as well as thanking his wife and their two children who joined him onstage for his acceptance speech for their support.

“I could not have accomplished what I have accomplished without you,” he told them.

Houston said the electorate shifted enough to render the PCs their majority. However, he said his campaign and the promises he outlined, particularly regarding health care, resonated with voters.

“What we know is if you provide real attention to real problems, voters will respond,” he said. “This result tonight is a result we share together. Change is coming to Nova Scotia, and I can’t wait to get started.””    

Houston shared what he considered an arduous task to deliver on his health care and other pledges made during the campaign.

"For the next four years — and beyond — I will promise you this: I will give you everything I have to fix health care. I will give you everything I have to make this a better province. It won't happen overnight and it will cost money, but if we work together we can get the job done."

With all ballots counted, Houston received nearly 70 per cent of the vote with a total of 4,918, compared to 1,585 for Liberal candidate Joe MacDonald and 500 for the NDP’s challenge Joy Polley. Jonathan Geoffrey Dean of the Atlantica Party secured 55 ballots.

Dunn also won convincingly with 4,092 votes in Pictou Centre, while Liberal challenger Jim McKenna had 2,269 votes, Vernon Theriault of the NDP had 862 and Laura Moore of the Green Party added 114.

“Oh, it feels great,” said Dunn, who posted his third straight win in Pictou Centre. “We worked very, very hard, and I had a fabulous campaign team.”

MacFarlane re-captured Pictou West with 4,487,compared to 1,510 for Mary Wooldridge-Elliott of the Liberals, 872 for the NDP’s Rick Parker, 124 for the Greens’ Clare Brett and 60 for Independent John A. Clark.

She noted how Pictou County has gone Tory Blue for three straight elections in 2013 and 2017 before this week.

“Tim Pat and I in Pictou County have held Pictou County blue since 2013 and it’s a very exciting time,” she said. “I’m thrilled; it’s something that we worked hard for, I’m very proud of my team across Nova Scotia and of course my leader Tim Houston.”

By early afternoon on Wednesday, all but one district were reported, leaving the PCs elected and leading in 31 seats, followed by the Liberals with 17, the NDP with six and one independent – Elizabeth Smith McCrossin.