Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador: In today’s surprising political news, Nova Scotia premier Stephen NcNeil has announced that he will be stepping away from public office.

After 17 years as an elected official, McNeil announced that he will retire from public life following a Liberal party leadership election to choose his successor.

McNeil was first elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for the riding of Annapolis in 2003. He has been the leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party since 2007, and was elected Nova Scotia’s twenty-eighth premier in 2013.

During his surprise press conference, McNeil stated that he was looking to step down earlier, but that COVID-19 struck and delayed his decision.

Premier McNeil stated that “I’ve always believed leadership matters, leadership is important but it needs to change. It can’t stay the same for the health of the organization and the province.”

McNeil stated that timing for an upcoming leadership election has not been set, and that he will continue to govern until his successor has been chosen by Nova Scotia Liberal party members.

It has been a busy week for Atlantic provincial politics, as Dr. Andrew Furey was chosen Premier-Designate of Newfoundland and Labrador by the province’s Liberal Party members on Monday night.

Furey received almost twice as many votes as his only opponent, defeating civil servant John Abbot by a margin of 26,433 to 13,557 electoral points.

Despite never being elected to public office, most of the existing provincial cabinet supported Premier-Designate Furey. A high-profile orthopedic surgeon, Furey is a Liberal party insider and son of Canadian Senate Speaker, the Honourable George J. Furey, QC.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s outgoing Premier Dwight Ball announced in February, 2020 that he would be resigning as the province’s thirteenth Premier.

First elected Premier with a majority in 2015, Ball was re-elected to a minority government in May of 2019, losing his majority in the provincial House of Assembly by one seat.

Economic and pandemic recovery will be difficult for a province already running the highest per capita operating deficit and facing its second worst deficit in history, at $2.1 billion.

Provincial law states that Furey must hold a general election within one year of taking office. His party and the outgoing Premier have seen a large rise in popularity, with Ball’s approval rating skyrocketing 31 points from February to May, rising from 26 per cent to 57 per cent.

Despite a late May Narrative Research poll showing the governing Liberal Party with a 60 per cent approval rating, up from 37 per cent in February, Premier-Designate Furey will face a challenging road as he looks to navigate Newfoundland and Labrador through an economic and health crisis.

Additionally, New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs has been governing with a one seat minority since November, 2018. Counsel will continue to monitor as rumours point to an imminent election in this additional Atlantic province.