In the end it wasn’t even close.
Whispers of a NDP majority turned to cheers for supporters last night as the New Democratic Party catapulted into government, winning 31 of 52 provincial seats in Nova Scotia's 38th general election.
“Friends, New Democrats, I cannot begin to tell you how humbled I feel," party leader Darrell Dexter told an exhuberant crowd at Dartmouth Holiday Inn. "I’m humbled by the trust that so many Nova Scotians have placed in the NDP."
Dexter will become the first ever NDP Premier east of Ontario. The Tories meanwhile were decimated, falling to 10 seats from 21. The Liberals can be happy about becoming official Opposition, but could only pick up two seats to finish at 11.
The NDP won 15 of 18 HRM seats, but it was the 15 rural mainland victories that handed the party a strong majority.
“Even if somebody gets hit by a bus we’re OK!” one excited NDP supporter said to a friend at the victory party.
Eight cabinet ministers went down to the NDP. Five of them, plus independent Ernie Fage, lost by more than 1,000 votes. Immigration Minister Len Goucher finished third behind Liberal Kelly Regan.
“Nova Scotians decided at this historic moment of challenge it was time for an historic change,” Dexter said in his victory speech.
Afterwards, he admitted to reporters even he was caught off guard by the results.
“There were seats there that I guess I would say I wasn’t certain of, but certainly it’s a pleasant surprise,” he said.
NDP chief of staff Dan O’Connor has been with the party since the mid-80s and has fought through seven provincial elections. When asked what sparked by far the greatest result in the party’s history he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Darrel Dexter,” he said. “Darrell Dexter personified what the NDP stood for and he brought a leadership and an emphasis on how the party talks to people, where we put our strength, that made all the difference.”
Like many NDP supporters, former federal party leader Alexa McDonough was optimistic heading into election day. Nearly everyone predicted an NDP win with a chance at a majority, but few expected the victory to be so decisive.
“It was looking like a minority government was probably a certainty. But I hardly dared to hope for that majority until I really saw it coming in tonight,” she said.