HALIFAX – Before he led Nova Scotia, he carried a toolbox.
But re-elected Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil, 52, comes from a family that does things in a big way, so 14 years ago he left his job running an appliance repair shop to enter politics.
Public service and family have always figured prominently in his life.
McNeil – a soft-spoken man with a lower-register voice and somewhat imposing six-foot-five frame – is the 12th of 17 children.
His late mother, Theresa McNeil, was left to raise the family on her own when her husband, Burt, choked to death while eating Sunday dinner when McNeil was eight years old.
That didn’t stop her from later becoming the high sheriff of Annapolis County – the first woman to hold such a position in Canada.
“She had no driver’s licence and hadn’t worked outside the house … The next morning, she woke up and said, ‘We’re it.’ We were all looking at her,” said McNeil in an interview this spring, recalling his father’s death decades ago.
McNeil studied refrigeration repair in Dartmouth, N.S., before opening his own appliance repair shop in Bridgetown, east of the family home in Granville Ferry, N.S.
He first won a seat in the legislature in 2003, although the Liberals finished third across the province.
McNeil won re-election in 2006 and a year later he was elected to lead the party.
He faced his first election as leader in 2009, when the NDP under Darrell Dexter swept to power, becoming the…