OXFORD – Tory Rushton refused to take anything for granted, even on election night and even when he was up by more than 1,000 votes with more than half the polls reporting.
Even after his opponent called to congratulate him.
Still after the dust settled and the final votes were tabulated, the 38-year-old Oxford man was elected as Cumberland South’s MLA-elect with a decisive victory over Liberal Scott Lockhart and two other candidates.
“I’m very humbled that the voters of Cumberland South have given me this mandate and I look forward to getting to work,” said the 38-year-old Oxford native. “I didn’t take anything for granted and neither did the campaign team. We knew it was going to be a hard battle. I don’t think we ever sat back and said this was going to easy. We took every day as a challenge and worked hard to get the vote out.”
Rushton replaces former party leader Jamie Baillie, who stepped aside as MLA in January amid allegations of misconduct.
The former Oxford fire chief, who is the grandson of former Cumberland West MLA George Henley, doesn’t feel being in opposition will hinder his ability to represent the riding. He said he and Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin will look after the area to the best of their abilities.
“The next two to three years will be a good learning curve for me to be in opposition, I understand that. There are a lot of good MLAs in the legislature right now and I’m sure everyone will work well together,” Rushton said.
He said he will press the government to fulfill its promises to replace the Rainbow Bridge outside Amherst and to build a new elementary school in Springhill to replace the aging West End-Memorial and Junction Road schools.
His main priority will be to work with government to address to physician situation in the riding and end the frequent ER closures in Parrsboro and Springhill.
“I didn’t matter who got elected there’s a lot of work to be done in Cumberland South,” Rushton said. “The people of Cumberland South feel as if they’ve been left behind and it’s going to be a big job to talk to government and tell it how the people here feel. We need to work to make them feel part of Nova Scotia.”
Liberal Scott Lockhart called Rushton shortly after 9 p.m. to congratulate him.
“I knocked on more than 3,000 doors and sensed a lot of anti-government sentiment against the prime minister and the premier,” Lockhart said. “I am disappointed with the result and for the team that worked so hard for me. I gave it everything I had.”
Also running were former teacher and journalist Larry Duchesne for the New Democrats and Bruce McCulloch from the Green Party.
The riding, created in 1993 from the former ridings of Cumberland Centre and Cumberland West, has been a strong PC seat dating back to former cabinet minister Murray Scott’s election in 1998.
Cumberland South is a mostly rural riding occupying most of Cumberland County and includes the town of Oxford and former towns of Parrsboro and Springhill.
Health care, and the frequent closure of emergency rooms at hospitals in Springhill and Parrsboro, was the biggest issue of the campaign while roads, including the continued tolling of the Cobequid Pass, was also big on the minds of voters.
In last May’s general election, Baillie claimed just over 51 per cent of the vote to defeat Liberal Kenny John Jackson while in 2013 he also picked up 51 per cent of the vote to hold the seat. Baillie was first elected in a 2010 by-election to replace Scott, who stepped aside to create a spot for the party leader to run.