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Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston unveils his party's complete and fully costed election platform in Halifax on July 22.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia’s three main party leaders rallied supporters and made final pitches to voters on the eve of Tuesday’s provincial election.

A contest that many thought would be a foregone conclusion for the incumbent Liberals has drawn tighter over the last two weeks, and the result could come down to party organization in crucial ridings.

This time around, voters will cast ballots in 55 ridings after the legislature was expanded by four seats following a 2019 redistribution.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin struck a confident tone as he addressed supporters Monday at a suburban Halifax shopping mall in the Bedford riding of deputy premier Kelly Regan. He was flanked by nine Halifax-area candidates.

“Nova Scotia has arrived at this very important moment, a moment to choose a prosperous path to a bright future,” Rankin said.

The 38-year-old, who succeeded Stephen McNeil as premier at a party convention in February, said the upcoming vote is also about “proven leadership.”

“We have not been afraid to make tough decisions to keep Nova Scotians and our economy safe and healthy,” he said.

Rankin has stressed an optimistic but tight-fisted approach to the province’s finances and has argued that targeted spending in areas such as health care, education and skills training are the best way to bolster the economy as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He told reporters that he was satisfied with his campaign and wouldn’t have done anything differently. Rankin also took a last swipe at Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston, who has stressed his progressive credentials during the campaign.

“He’s continuously criticized our approach to handling the pandemic that’s not a progressive style of politics,” the Liberal leader said.

Houston, meanwhile, appeared buoyant about his prospects on Monday as he addressed supporters at Halifax-area strip mall parking lot.

“Thirty days ago, the polls said we wouldn’t have a chance – turns out they were wrong,” Houston said to applause. “With one day to go, I want you to help us send a clear message to the voters of Nova Scotia. Their vote will make a difference.”

Houston said his campaign hit on a winning message by almost exclusively focusing on the need to invest massively in the health-care system. “Nova Scotians told me that health care was their priority,” he said. “That’s why we are focusing on health care, it’s not a (campaign) sound bite.”

A recent poll from Narrative Research indicated the gap in support between the Nova Scotia Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives had narrowed. The polling agency said that in May, the Liberals were at 52 per cent support compared to 24 per cent for the Tories and 19 per cent for the NDP.

But new polling, conducted between July 27 and Aug. 9, put the Liberals at 40 per cent, the Tories at 31 per cent and the NDP at 27 per cent. Support for the Liberals was at its lowest point in the past year while the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP had gained momentum.

Houston, who appeared with 10 Halifax-area candidates, told reporters he believes the party will do well across the city’s crucial 21 ridings and in other areas of the province. “I’m really encouraged by the early voting numbers,” he said. “That to me sends the message that people want change.”

According to Elections Nova Scotia, a total of 166,403 early votes had been cast as of Friday, compared to 112,944 at the same point in the 2017 provincial election.

Elsewhere in Halifax, NDP Leader Gary Burrill appeared at an elementary school with several of the people he met during the campaign. Burrill has staged daily events where he chatted with voters about issues affecting their lives, such as health care, affordable housing and rent control.

“I want to be very clear: if either Iain Rankin or Tim Houston are elected these things will not happen,” Burrill said in a news release. “But real people need them to happen, and they can happen.”

The New Democrats, who had just five seats at the dissolution of the legislature, have targeted their efforts in the greater Halifax and Sydney areas.

At dissolution, the Liberals held 24 of 51 seats, followed by the Progressive Conservatives with 17. The New Democrats had five seats, and there were three Independents and two vacancies.

Polls open to voters at 8 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.

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