Mulling over PC leadership race

October 27 will be a big day for Progressive Conservatives in the province as the party’s leadership convention will be held in Halifax. The convention will see a new leader of the party elected, as five candidates are vying to sit in the big chair.

Locally, two high profile progressive conservatives have stepped forward to offer endorsements for two separate candidates. Current Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster – considered by many to have the skills needed to make a run for the leadership seat himself – has thrown his support behind Tim Houston, the MLA for Pictou East.

Former Mayor of Port Hawkesbury and a former MLA, Billy Joe MacLean gives a thumbs up to Cecil Clarke, the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Interestingly, MacLean said he made the decision to endorse Clarke only after he learned MacMaster wasn’t going to run. Had MacMaster run, said MacLean, he would have supported the Inverness County MLA.

For MacLean, Clarke’s performance as a minister of four different portfolios when serving as an MLA in the John Hamm/Rodney MacDonald government was a big selling point. Along with that, managing a city is an impressive feat, MacLean said.

MacMaster, who pledged his support for Houston at a June 10 campaign engagement on the Port Hawkesbury Waterfront, said he’s basing his decision on the work the two men have done together for the past five years. Houston has great commitment and a sense of urgency, MacMaster said, that’s second to none.

Rounding out the field of candidates are Julie Chaisson, Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market executive director; John Lohr, the MLA for Kings North; and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the MLA for Cumberland North.

As a business change management specialist, Chaisson has experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Lohr is also well-versed in the business world, having bought his parent’s farm in 1987, diversified, and created the Farmer John’s Herbs company. Smith-McCrossin also has experience in farming, but nursing is her profession – along with an entrepreneurial side that pushed her to serve as the owner/operator of four small businesses.

Come the October 27 convention, the new leader will be selected by a riding-by-riding point system. To flesh that out a bit, all members of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party will be given the opportunity to vote, but those votes will be divided over 51 constituencies in the province. Each constituency will be worth 100 votes, meaning a total of 5,100 points are available. The candidate with the largest total will become the new PC leader.

Two points come to mind, considering all this information.

First, everyone ought to take their power to choose seriously. For voting PC members, hopefully everyone will take a considered approach to casting your vote.

Secondly, and alluding to a point former mayor Billy Joe MacLean made, it’s a shame MLA Allan MacMaster isn’t among the field of prospective leaders.

Everyone likes seeing their area represented in terms of a leadership race, but the prospect of a MacMaster run is more than hometown hopefulness. MacMaster has proven himself to be an exceptional thinker and public speaker.

He’s been an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, for the patients at Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital, for those recognizing the importance of the Gaelic language in Nova Scotian culture, and for countless locals contacting his constituency office. MacMaster is known for his approachability but also being able to debate any topic that floats his way.

He would make an outstanding PC leader.

Of course, this simply wasn’t the time for MacMaster to take a run at the leadership. However, down the road, it would be very exciting to think of the Inverness County MLA leading his party.