May 27, 2024

Twila Grosse of the PC Party will be the next MLA for Preston, taking a riding held by the Nova Scotia Liberal Party for the past 20 years.

“This feels awesome,” Grosse told reporters, following a hero’s welcome in a community room filled with her family, friends, campaign team and members of the Tory caucus.

“It’s a good feeling because … I do believe honestly that I am the right choice and I can be their voice for this riding.”

Grosse had a resounding win, taking 45.2 per cent of the vote, according to the Elections Nova Scotia website.

  • PC Party: Twila Grosse – 1,950 votes.
  • NDP: Colter Simmonds – 1,145 votes.
  • Liberal Party: Carlo Simmons – 1,021 votes.
  • Green: Anthony Edmonds – 101 votes.
  • Nova Scotians United: Charles Bobby Taylor – 95 votes.

Voter turnout was just under 39 per cent.

Grosse said the result suggests voters believe in the work the government is doing and wanted an MLA to be a part of Premier Tim Houston’s team. She said her focus as MLA will be on improving health care for people in the district and affordability.

“That was a huge issue at the door.”

The campaign was perhaps most notable for the ongoing back and forth between the Tories and Liberals for the parties’ respective campaign advertising.

The Liberals complained to Elections Nova Scotia at the beginning of the campaign for taxpayer-funded radio and web ads the Tories were running about the federal government’s carbon tax. Those ads were ruled out of order and the Tories were told to stop them.

A man wearing an orange shirt and ball cap speaks into a microphone.
Colter Simmonds says he’ll try again to win the Preston seat in the next general election. He finished second, an improvement from his third place finish in 2021. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Then the Tories complained about signs and flyers the Liberals were distributing that suggested the Tory government supported a potential construction and demolition waste site in Lake Echo because they were unwilling to take a position on it.

The chief electoral officer ruled those materials were misleading and violated the Elections Act and ordered the Liberals to take them down. When the party refused, Elections Nova Scotia called in the RCMP.

Meanwhile, the Liberals also complained about Tory campaign signs encouraging people to vote against the Liberal carbon tax, signs the provincial Liberals said are misleading because they confuse the federal and provincial levels of the Liberal Party.

Elections Nova Scotia ruled there wasn’t enough time left in the campaign to pursue that matter.

Tuesday’s result could be seen as a stinging rebuke for the Liberals after the party defended the seat two years ago in convincing fashion even when other seats were falling to the Tories. Party members have said the byelection campaign faced challenges on the doorstep from people unhappy with the federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the carbon tax.

Two men shake hands in a crowded room.
Liberal candidate Carlo Simmons shakes hands with a former MLA for Preston, Keith Colwell, as Liberal Leader Zach Churchill looks on. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

But Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said it is notable that the Tories decided to focus on that during the campaign rather than what they have or have not done since forming government two years ago.

“They ran a campaign not built around defending their own record in governing our province,” he said.

“They ran a campaign built around a protest vote toward the federal government.”

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said the Tories’ campaign message might have been successful during the byelection, but it could backfire as people realize the provincial government has no control over the federal government’s policy.

“If people think that they’re voting for the Progressive Conservatives because it’s a vote against the Liberal carbon tax, I think they’re gonna be mistaken and I think it certainly could come back to haunt them.”

Information Morning – NS10:22Newly elected Preston MLA Twila Grosse

Twila Grosse, the newly elected MLA for the Preston riding, joins us to talk about what got her into politics and what she is hoping to do in office.

Both Simmonds and Simmons said they intend to run again for the respective parties in the next general election, which is scheduled for 2025.

The byelection was required following the resignation of former Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds in April. Simmonds, who left politics for the private sector, was first elected in 2021.