Nova Scotia Greens have elected a new leader with bold plans to guide the young party to its first ever seat in the legislature.
Ken McGowan, a 53-year old entrepreneur from Cow Bay, N.S., became the Green party's second-ever leader during a convention Sunday in Coldbrook, beating out two other candidates including a farmer and a former educator.
Mr. McGowan, a Sudbury, Ont., native who moved to Nova Scotia from Toronto in 1997, arrived late and missed the announcement that he had won, which earned laughs from the small group of Greens gathered at a local inn.
"I'm ill-prepared for this...but you saw that my first political act was to kiss a baby," joked the soft-spoken, sandy-haired Mr. McGowan, who took the podium after stopping to greet a woman and a child.
But Mr. McGowan, who has served as a candidate recruiter for the Greens, soon turned serious, telling his supporters he would work hard to build the party from the ground up.
"I'm humbled and a little bit terrified by the confidence you've placed in me," he said, joined on stage by his competitors.
"I'll do everything in my power to...help you accomplish the goals you want to accomplish for this party, this province, this planet."
Mr. McGowan replaces Nick Wright, who announced his resignation in December amid plans to pursue a career as a lawyer in Ontario.
The new leader said he will attract younger voters by visiting schools and universities to talk about the party's environmental policies, which he said resonates with the younger generation.
Mr. McGowan also said the Greens will work to educate the public on climate change, and battle outmigration by pushing for more opportunities for entrepreneurs.
"We have to change our attitude towards the planet," Mr. McGowan, who holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Toronto, said in an interview.
"Instead of being driven by individual goals, I think we now need to be drive by societal goals."
There were 154 party members eligible to vote Sunday, both in person and through mail.
Mr. McGowen secured the win with 32 of 74 votes cast. Thirty-one votes were needed for the victory.
Ellen Durkee, 46, a former small business owner and former math and reading aide from Middle Stewiacke, trailed Mr. McGowan with 20 votes. Newcomer Aaron Eisses, 29, a farmer living in Masstown, N.S., came third with nine.
In last year's provincial election, the Greens received just 9,000 votes - about two per cent of the total - and failed to win any seats.
During a question-and-answer session held earlier in the day, the three candidates agreed there is still work to be done to boost the party's profile, though officials said the Greens have seen a 300 per cent growth in membership since their March 2006 convention.
Some members asked whether it was wise to field a full slate of 52 candidates in the last election, even though some contenders had no political experience.
Ms. Durkee said the Greens should be selective with its candidates and choose people who are familiar with party policy and have a knack for public speaking.
"We have to make ourselves legitimate politically," she said.
Mr. McGowan argued each citizen in every riding deserves a chance to vote Green.
The outgoing leader said the Green party's objective is to run as many candidates as possible, and the new leader should work to maintain the party's growing momentum.
"People across the country, especially in Nova Scotia, are realizing that the old ways of doing things are not sustainable," said Mr. Wright.
"The Green party is the only party with a vision for fiscal responsibility, socially progressive policy and environmental sustainability."
The party's next challenge will likely be an expected by-election in Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, which became vacant when NDP member Kevin Deveaux resigned in March to accept a job in Vietnam.
Mr. McGowan's partner and running mate for deputy leader, environmentalist Beverley Woodfield, is the nominated candidate.
Mr. McGowan said he hasn't yet decided which riding he will run in.