Politics

The race is on: Five hopefuls vie for Nova Scotia PC leadership

Two women, three men want to be the next PC leader following Jamie Baillie’s resignation

The Progressive Conservatives haven’t been in power since 2006. Their 16 seats are on the right side of the chamber.   Sonia Koshy

The race for the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party leadership is starting to pick up, with Julie Chaisson as the latest candidate.

Chaisson, executive director of the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, announced her intent to run on Thursday. She joins Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, MLA for Cumberland North, as the only women to run for PC party leadership in Nova Scotia since the 1940s.

Pictou MLA Tim Houston and Kings North MLA John Lohr are also running, along with Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke.

Officially, the PC party won’t be selecting a new leader for a while. The party will set out dates and procedures for the election during a PC convention this weekend.

Former party leader Jamie Baillie announced he would be stepping down as leader in November, but he resigned last month due to “allegations of inappropriate behaviour.” Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane was named interim leader.

Former PC leader Jamie Baillie resigned last month after sexual assault allegations were brought forth.   Caora McKenna

The PCs haven’t been in power since 2006. They currently hold 16 of 51 seats in the legislative assembly and are the official Opposition to the governing Liberals.

David Johnson, a political science professor at Cape Breton University, said the only way the Conservatives will win the next election is if the McNeil government fails in the next three years.

“There’s the old saying in politics that governments aren’t elected, they’re defeated. The Tories are going to have to argue that it’s time for a change,” Johnson said in an interview on Thursday.

Johnson said he wouldn’t be surprised if more candidates enter the leadership race.

“They’ve got some very talented people here with different stories, different issues that they will be proposing,” said Johnson. “But when you look at where they’re from, what we’re missing is anyone from Metro Halifax. If you’re going to lead the party to win the provincial election, you have to win Metro Halifax.”

The candidates

Chaisson, who lives in Chester Basin, was the PC candidate in the Chester-St. Margaret’s riding last election, and came in third.

Smith-McCrossin, 48, has been MLA for Cumberland North for less than a year, but is well known in the Amherst community as a nurse and health advocate. On Tuesday, she launched her campaign at the Amherst Family Health Clinic, which she opened in 2002. Increasing funds for health care, hospitals and palliative care in the province are some of the goals she outlined.

“Nobody should die, alone, on a hospital stretcher in a hallway,” she said.

Houston was elected as MLA for Pictou in 2013, and re-elected in 2017. He said his 20 years working in business sets him apart and gives him “the ability to listen to a lot of unique, different perspectives and … find the right solution,” he told The Signal.

“It’s a time for our party where we need to bring people together,” said Houston. “We need to recognize different opinions and different perspectives and then work with them to find the best way forward for the province.”

Clarke, 49, announced his candidacy earlier this month. He has been the mayor of CBRM since 2012 and was MLA for Cape Breton North from 2001-11.

Lohr, 57, has lived in Kings County his whole life, making his living as a farmer and a small business owner. Like Houston, he was first elected as an MLA in 2013 and re-elected last spring.

The next provincial election will be held in 2021.