HALIFAX, N.S. - Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald said he was satisfied with the campaign his Progressive Conservative party ran as he cast his ballot Tuesday in a provincial election that could produce an electoral first in the region.
Voting in his home town of Mabou in Cape Breton, MacDonald said he was travelling to polling stations around the riding of Inverness.
Despite polls that showed his party trailing during the campaign, MacDonald said he expected people who voted Progressive Conservative in the past would do so again.
"I'm very proud of our team, I'm proud of our candidates, I'm proud of the election that we've run and I'll respect the result of what Nova Scotians decide," he told reporters after voting.
He was quick to downplay Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil's plea for Conservatives to vote Liberal in an effort to prevent a win by the New Democrats who appeared poised to form the first NDP government in the region.
"Obviously Mr. McNeil is attempting to court other voters, but I believe those who voted Progressive Conservative in the past will support us once again," he said.
At dissolution, the minority Conservative government held just one more seat than the NDP in the legislature, but polls through the campaign have had the New Democrats out in front.
Voting was brisk early in the day, with officials saying there were lineups at most polling stations when they opened on a clear, sunny spring morning.
An official said the mild temperatures and clear skies probably helped get people out to the polls.
"The turnout, at least the interest, has been very good," said Dana Doiron of Elections Nova Scotia.
Despite the perceived lead, NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said he was taking nothing for granted as he emerged from a voting booth in a Cole Harbour church hall.
"We're looking forward to a good day today," said Dexter.
"It's the end of a long campaign but I think people are really energized to push through until the polls close."
The NDP has traditionally had a hard time expanding its power base beyond Halifax but Dexter was relentless in touring rural ridings over the course of the 35-day campaign.
McNeil cast his ballot shortly after the polls opened in Granville Centre, walking in with his wife Andrea and their 19-year-old daughter, Colleen.
McNeil said it was "wonderful" to vote for the first time alongside his daughter, who on occasion had joined her father on the Liberal tour bus.
He said he was satisfied with his campaign and that people were listening to what he had to say.
"Let's be honest - 35 days, politicians in front of you all the time and throwing literature at you, people get to the overload at some point," he said. "But people were very kind to us."
He said he was confident that his message had resonance after making a last minute pitch to disaffected Conservatives.
"There's no question there will be change today, it's just a question of what that change looks like," he said to reporters after casting his ballot.
"There are so many races that are really three-way races that are tight that no one will know. I don't think anyone can predict a good number of these ridings until, really, the votes are counted."
MacDonald also continued to insist that the outcome of the vote was not a foregone conclusion because too many ridings were too close to call.
Elections Nova Scotia says there are 705,000 names on the preliminary electors list, an increase of about 27,000 over the 2006 vote.
However, less than 60 per cent of eligible voters actually cast ballots last time out.
The polls will remain open until 7 p.m. AT tonight.
At dissolution, there were 21 Tory seats in the 52-seat legislature, 20 NDP, nine Liberals, one Independent and one vacancy.