The 2021 Liberal leadership candidates in the race to replace Premier Stephen McNeil will give their final address to delegates Sunday evening, outlining why they think they are best suited for the job.

The three former McNeil cabinet ministers – Randy Delorey, Iain Rankin and Labi Kousoulis -- will each have 12 minutes to make their speech. The event will be live-streamed on the Nova Scotia Liberal Party’s website.

About 8,100 delegates across the province will begin casting ballots on Monday and the voting will continue until 3 p.m. on Feb. 6.

CANDIDATE RANDY DELOREY

Randy Delorey, 42, was first elected in 2013 as MLA for Antigonish, N.S. and was re-elected in 2017.

He held the environment, finance and health portfolios– some high-profile cabinet positions and experience that he plans to tout about during his final address. Delorey says the new premier will have to deal with the health and economic ramifications of the pandemic.

"I do have the most experience; I can hit the ground running there," Delorey said in a recent interview.

Delorey has proposed to defer provincial tax and loan payments for businesses after the province's state of emergency is lifted and has pledged to offer free university tuition for low-income Nova Scotians who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

"In light of COVID I think it's the appropriate time to move forward to provide more opportunity, more access to education," he said.

Delorey says any economic strategy moving forward will be tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our success in keeping each other safe is because of the people,” explains Delorey. “People have been following the public health advice and following the rules.”

CANDIDATE IAIN RANKIN

Iain Rankin, 37, is the youngest of the three candidates. He was first elected as MLA for Timberlea-Prospect in 2013 and re-elected in 2017.

"I think there's a lot to be said where younger people want to see more action on climate change and social inequality," Rankin said in a recent interview.

Rankin, who was minister of lands and forestry when he announced his candidacy, said he is the "most green" candidate, linking much of his economic platform with environmental concerns.

He promises to end the province's use of coal to generate electricity by 2030 and has set a goal of having 80 per cent of Nova Scotia's energy coming from renewable sources by that same year. Rankin also says he wants more electrification of the transportation system.

“This is an opportunity to refresh the party. The message is resonating,” says Rankin.

CANDIDATE LABI KOUSOULIS

Labi Kousoulis, 49, was first elected in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 2013 as MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island and was re-elected in 2017.

Kousoulis says his extensive business experience is the strength of his candidacy, and while none of the candidates have distanced themselves from the fiscally conservative policies of McNeil, it's Kousoulis who most closely aligns himself with the soon-to-be former premier.

"I am aligned with Stephen's policies and I have always said that as government, it is no different from your household: You have to live within your means," he said in a recent interview.

Kousoulis, the former labour minister, stresses the need for economic development in all regions of the province and is pledging $60 million in tax relief to help the small business sector get through the pandemic.

RACE FOR LEADERSHIP DURING A PANDEMIC

All three candidates agree most of their agenda items will be pushed aside for now, with COVID-19 taking top priority.

“In the short term, day one, it is about the pandemic. We need to keep Nova Scotians safe,” says Delorey.

Rankin says an effective leadership during a global pandemic requires a team approach with medical experts.

“We need to listen to public health as we guide public policy,” explains Rankin.

Kousoulis agrees, adding public consultation must be maintained.

“From day one, this campaign was going to be about ideas and it was about engaging in Nova Scotians, and getting ideas from them,” said Kousoulis.

Dalhousie University Professor, Lori Turnbull, says the pandemic has altered the political landscape. She says it’s difficult to predict if the winner of the leadership race will be well positioned to secure a third straight Liberal mandate in Nova Scotia.

“We have seen other pandemic elections go in favour of the incumbent,” says Turnbull. “There will be incumbent at this time. It’s a question of whether people see the new leader as a continuation of the old government and whether that’s a good thing or not.”

The new Liberal Leader and premier will be determined at a virtual convention in Halifax, N.S. on Feb. 6.

With files from The Canadian Press.