Iain Rankin says he's ready to lead Nova Scotia's Official Opposition.
Speaking to CBC News on Wednesday for the first time since his Liberal Party lost last week's provincial election, Rankin reaffirmed his plans to stay on as leader after the Progressive Conservatives are sworn into government on Aug. 31.
Rankin said he's the right person for the job because of his commitment to the province and what he's brought to the party, which was reduced to 17 seats in an election that saw the Tories win a majority.
"We have the most diverse team," Rankin said following an in-person meeting with incoming caucus members.
"We have more engagement from young people than we've ever had. Every stop across the whole province, we had more young Liberals excited about the future. I think that I best represent the future of where this party needs to go."
Whether party members agree remains to be seen.
Leadership review required
The party constitution requires a leadership review following an election loss. At some point, an annual general meeting will be called to determine whether Rankin gets to keep his job.
The MLA for Timberlea-Prospect said he plans to hold a leadership tour and engage with as many people as possible in the meantime, something he said he didn't have time to do after becoming leader in February.
"After the leadership race, I had to go into the [legislative] session, budget, and then we hit the third wave [of the pandemic]," he said.
Inevitably, Rankin is going to have to answer questions about an election campaign that never seemed to find its footing and was unable to counter the consistent and disciplined messaging from the Progressive Conservatives on health care and the NDP on housing.
Even when polls showed those were the two issues voters were most concerned about, Rankin and his campaign continued to focus on the economy.
Rankin also met Wednesday with outgoing caucus members who were defeated in the election. People who attended those meetings said they were civil and included constructive criticism, while also acknowledging the efforts of outgoing MLAs.
'Voters have spoken'
In his concession speech the night of the election, Rankin said he wouldn't have changed anything about the campaign. On Wednesday, he said he was referring to the decision to run a positive campaign, and that a review of what went wrong will take place.
"There's lots of things we need to analyze about our strategy, our messaging, and the way that we put the campaign together," he said.
"Credit to [the Tories]. They ran a good campaign. Our message was about economic recovery and we didn't get that message out as broad as we wanted to. I still believe we had the most comprehensive plan to deal with health-care challenges, but the voters have spoken and you can never make a mistake when you vote."
Rankin said he's excited about his new caucus, which includes seven first-time MLAs and the province's first Muslim MLA.
"We're going to build and leverage their talents to ensure that we form the strongest opposition this province has ever seen," he said.
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