Former Mayor backs Clarke

PORT HAWKESBURY: Former Port Hawkesbury Mayor and MLA Billy Joe MacLean has decided to back Cecil Clarke in the race to lead Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party.

“I made the decision only after I learned that Allan MacMaster wasn’t going to run,” MacLean said. “I was hoping he would. He’s an upcoming politician who is a Premier in the making – someday.”

With MacMaster not taking his kick at the can, the race for PC leadership is a five-person affair. Clarke, the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, is facing Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market executive director Julie Chaisson, as well as MLAs Tim Houston (Pictou East), John Lohr (Kings North) and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin (Cumberland North).

MacMaster, who serves as the MLA for Inverness, is backing Houston. MacMaster made the announcement on June 11 during a Houston meet-and-greet at the Port Hawkesbury Waterfront.

MacLean said he has a number of reasons for supporting Clarke.

“Cecil has vast experience in his pocket,” MacLean said. “He was the minister of four different portfolios in the John Hamm/Rodney MacDonald government. Maybe even more importantly, he managed a city. He took it from a large deficit to a surplus, and he’s managed the city well.”

Having experience in both municipal and provincial government will be a great boon for the new leader of the PCs, MacLean said. He added that Clarke is very good public speaker.

“I’m disappointed that Allan didn’t run, but my first choice after that is Cecil,” MacLean said. “Allan and his wife have twins coming, so their responsibilities are going to be heavy for the next few years.”

MacLean said he thinks the PCs have a good field of candidates. Should Clarke get knocked out of contention, MacLean said Houston might be his candidate, but he also likes Chaisson and Smith-McCrossin.

“It’ll be an interesting convention,” he said.

The new leader will be picked on October 27.