Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party Leadership Race Special Coverage

The NSPC Party will be electing its new leader on October 26-27th, 2018 just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia. As a long-time off-again and on-again member of the PC Party, I have decided to forgo a membership and a vote this year in order to step back and report on the last two months of the election campaign.

Previous leader Jamie Baillie announced he would be stepping down on November 1st, 2017. MLA Karla MacFarlane is the interim leader, and there are five names in the race to receive the crown.

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Candidate Profiles

Elizabeth launched her campaign on February 6th, 2018.

Policy

All policy points in this section are non-exhaustive and interpreted from the written portions of the respective website of the candidate.

Elizabeth’s early comments on the campaign concerned the need for any leader of the PC Party to be able to win a general election and secure support in Halifax. She did not offer a ready-made solution, indicating that the Party would have to work with its MLAs to find a way to attract voters in the HRM.

During her initial announcement, Elizabeth also identified health care, economic growth and finding great candidates to run in the next provincial election as pillars.

Having worked in Health Care and as the PC’s Health and Wellness critic, Elizabeth identified several major issues, including surgery wait times, a lack of family doctors, and troubles at the organizational level. Elizabeth had previously attempted to introduce legislation to ensure the Health Authority would have a mandated set of medical professionals. Mental Health policy is approached from a critic’s perspective, with clearly-identified issues but with veiled ideas on how to change care to be more client-centric. Payment models and rural staffing will receive tweaks, with a requirement for medical residents to rotate outside of the city centers. A Front Line Health Innovation Task Force will be assembled upon election to party leadership in order to fill out more details on the Party’s health care plan. While Elizabeth has brought attention to rural emergency rooms, there is no clear policy regarding their place.

As for Seniors, Elizabeth has specific changes she wishes to make to improve quality of life, including more money for long-term care beds and to update requirements involving staff.

As for the substantial Revenues from the province’s Natural Resources, Elizabeth has promised legislation to manage these revenues by using a similar funnel established by previous premiers John Hamm and Rodney MacDonald, where money would both service the debt and invest in “the priorities of Nova Scotians.”

An Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin government would include some new hires in the form of an “independent Ethics and lobbying commissioner” to support updates to the current laws concerning lobbyists, bringing the province more in line with the rest of the country.

So far, Economic policy seems to be presented in the form of a critique of the current McNeil government’s priorities. Elizabeth highlights the fact that the Liberals admit that they are forecasting a dip in economic performance after incurring thousands of job losses and a smaller labour force. Poverty will be funded into obscurity with a proposed basic income.

Following up on her economic vision, Tax policy includes tweaks to personal income brackets and changes to the basic personal allowance. Corporate and small businesses will get a tax break, and approximately 39,000 people will no longer pay income tax on their low earnings. Elizabeth’s tax plan is perhaps the best formed bespoke piece policy in her candidacy as its numbers have passed through a consultancy process.

Canadian politics has been lit up with the fight over Supply Management in recent weeks and in June Elizabeth declared her support for the system.

Continuing on the topic of government intervention, Elizabeth has plans to refresh equalization funding formulas between the province and its Municipalities under her oddly named New Deal.

In line with the focus on local Food Production, Nova Scotians will be producing 50% of our own food by 2030. I hope everyone likes blueberries. Not sure where the farmers are going to come from, but the plan requires a lot of government money and geothermal energy.

Natural Resources concerns are presented as wrapped up in conservation and new Ministry office hires.

Elizabeth appears to be painting herself as part of the lineage of the much-loved Party Leader and former Premier Dr. John Hamm, with numerous calls in her press materials pointing that that Elizabeth wants to pick up where Dr. Hamm — a fellow healthcare professional — had left off. But, bringing up dead luminaries including Robert Stanfield and Milton Friedman is a bit off message when Elizabeth seems focused on the present day and near future.

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John launched his campaign on January 8th, 2018.

Policy

All policy points in this section are non-exhaustive and interpreted from the written portions of the respective website of the candidate.

John’s policy statements are not exhaustive, but they range from small tweaks of targeted policy to wider statements that will effect how our natural resources will draw wealth to the province from the international market. Filling in the blanks around these promises, it appears that John is very confident in the legislative process to improve the province. Further, he appears to prefer solutions that require more government hiring but has a clear-eyed belief in the basic importance of freedom.

The inclusion of Social Conservatism includes protection for doctors who do not want to assist in medical suicide, the affirmation of government support of faith-based organizations who hire summer students and the rejection of the federal (and by thin extension, provincial) Liberal Party’s “values test.” In sum, John’s social and religious protections are intended to define some views are inherently based on religious beliefs and that those beliefs — including abortion — ought not to be the lynch pin for whether a religious facility should be denied government funding for, say, the construction of wheelchair ramps.

John’s social views supports further policy that agree that not every person has the same thought processes. Nova Scotia has only two Mental Health courts, each designed for adult offenders possessing both a mental disorder and a criminal offence charge. John wishes to expand this program based on their success. The focus on mental health and wellness includes a statement in support of granting a tax-free lump sum to families of both professional and volunteer first responders should these paramedics, police and firefighters be killed in their line of duty.

Continuing with the Health Care line, John identifies the doctor shortage as a “visible symptom,” which is simultaneously good writing from a marketing standpoint and an easy sell. For John, the solution is to offer the highest salaries in the Maritimes, with even more for those who take rural posts. There aren’t enough doctors, therefore, spend more money on doctors. But first, John will fire the Health Authority’s CEO and board members. There might be more to the process than sending out pink slips, but that’s unclear.

Economic policy is not presently mysteriously or from a wide perspective, with promises to promote dismantling the NSLC’s monopoly on liquor sales, putting forth legislation that would allow Uber drivers to purchase insurance and to remove the sales tax on the purchase of used cars. The promise to end the NSLC monopoly does not address details on whether the laws restricting brew-your-own wine and beer shops would be loosened.The fifteen billion dollar debt will be paid down with government surpluses. There doesn’t appear to be any projections on how long it will take to pay off the massive sum at this rate.

With the province sitting on top of tens of billions of dollars worth of Natural Gas ripe for fracking, John will lift the 2014 ban on development. As for carbon dioxide, John will not stand for a carbon tax handed down by the federal Liberals.

Our province will also be hiring for a new Agricultural Minister. Right now, the Agricultural Ministry is also responsible for Fisheries and Aquaculture. Not to be left out, the province’s forestry industry and Northern Pulp will receive “support,” which appears to mean bespoke legislation.

Money flow will likely be a tripping point for a John Lohr Government. Promoting natural resources is good, but it will take years before that money finds its way back into the government. Since many of his policies rely on up-front government funding and government hiring, the price tag up front to fulfill his vision will be steep, especially because 50% of the surplus is meant to be dedicated towards debt service. Another change on the government level will be fixed election dates and a pre-determined schedule for the Legislature.

In a nod to the federal Conservative Party of Canada, John’s Education commitment is to pull funding from universities that don’t “protect free speech.” Whether this will extend to government-run community colleges, or to grade schools is unclear.

With changes at the ministerial level and over natural resources and doctor shortages, the size of government is likely to expand and these new costs are likely expected to be bankrolled by income from natural gas.

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Tim launched his campaign on November 19th, 2017.

Policy

All policy points in this section are non-exhaustive and interpreted from the written portions of the respective website of the candidate.

Uniquely, Tim started with a focus on the Leadership selection process and the Party itself, stating that a spending cap of $250,000 ought to be placed on hopefuls. Further, deputy ministers would required to reapply for their job titles should Tim take over the reins. Dues-paying PC members will be given more responsibility in the formation of policy and direction.

In order to address patients with chronic illness, Health Care spending will be shifted to include house calls. Tim identifies that the most expensive illnesses are diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and obesity, and that addressing root causes is the answer. No timeline or policy suggestions beyond asking around for ideas are suggested.

The complexity of Autism forms a pillar of the campaign, but only as critique of the lack of support from the province. In extension, new spending will create a Minister of Addictions and Mental Health and a standing committee on health.

Labour issues will be addressed by negotiating for “universal safety regulations” to allow Atlantic Canadians to work in any of the four provinces in the east. No word on whether the campaign has an opinion on the pre-existing Red Seal Program.

Further looking to lower intra-provincial barriers, a free trade agreement concerning the movement of alcohol around the Atlantic provinces will be on the table.

Borrowing heavily from the Glaze Report on Education, Tim has highlighted several recommendations and critiques that he appears to support. Tim indicates that he believes there is already money available to implement suggestions from the experts, since good money has already been thrown after bad. In short, control over local issues such as snow days and facilities rentals ought to be handed back to the local community. But, the campaign gives an open call to Premier McNeil to implement the report. Later, Tim expanded on his policy by supporting skills training in high schools from carpentry to coding. Oh, and another 400 assistants will be hired to lend a hand in class, and there will be a new provincial standing committee on education… even as control is given back to the locals.

Adolescence will be extended in Tim’s Economic plan, and the provincial personal allowance for the under-25 crowd will prevent the payment of taxes on your first $50,000. Taxes will be lowered overall for both individuals and businesses — including bringing back the film tax credit. Root causes of poverty are not identified, but they too shall be resolved. Infrastructure projects will also be completed on a case-by-base basis from a business standpoint. Traffic in HRM will be addressed through consultations with municipal leadership and public transit/light rail groups.

Provincial dealings with Municipalities are to be negotiated.

Seniors’ issues will be addressed with in-home care.

Developing the technological side of the economy includes high-speed internet for Rural areas of the province. As well, farmers will be called up to help cook up new policies on Agriculture.

Tim is against the federal Liberal Carbon Tax and prefers local agreements on sustainability including forestry. Further, while Tim is supportive of Northern Pulp the project must be “properly scrutinized.”

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Julie launched her campaign on February 8th, 2018.

Policy

All policy points in this section are non-exhaustive and interpreted from the written portions of the respective website of the candidate.

In his first major announcement, Cecil unveiled a “grassroots policy initiative” that pushes responsibility for developing policy on to the Party membership. Cecil’s first act as PC Leader will be to ask members what they want him to do. I appreciate the sentiment, but for an opening salvo it’s not strong to promote your platform as being made of putty.

On announcing his decision to run, Cecil began to travel the province asking for seed policy from the voting membership. His first major imprint was from seniors, causing his first solid policy announcement to be framed as an open letter to Premier Stephen McNeil asking him to reallocate dollars to relieving long-term care wait lists and addressing the struggles wrapped in a fixed income. Open letters aren’t a strong way of communicating policy — McNeil sure as heck isn’t going to read this, so why frame it like this? And if McNeil responded in agreement and found $50 million for new beds, would your job be over, Cecil? Is government money the only fix?

Closely linked to issues concerning seniors is Health Care. Cecil appears to be looking to scrap the Health Authority and will replace it with… whatever he comes up with after traveling around consulting with local health experts. Doctors will soon be expected to take on more work, as they step away from their patients in order to get more involved in decision-making, or something.

Cecil’s Second Epistle To The Liberals is addressed to Trudeau and concerns the Shipbuilding Contract which landed on the shores of Halifax under the Harper government. Cecil wants Trudeau to reaffirm the contract. Since the contract was not a political gift, rather one based on Navy recommendations, it’s unlikely that Trudeau was considering ripping it up.

Implying an agreement that greenhouse gas emissions are good for the environment — or detrimental for industry? — Cecil will “fight” the federal Carbon Tax.

Provincial Taxes will be reduced through a program developed by… consulting with business leaders and “grassroots Tories.” So, taxes will be reduced, and someone else who isn’t Cecil will find the way to get it done.

Cecil launched his campaign on February 3rd, 2018.

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Julie launched her campaign on February 8th, 2018.

Policy

All policy points in this section are non-exhaustive and interpreted from the written portions of the respective website of the candidate.

Based on her Urban Strategy, Julie believes that the party ought to use provincial money to pay for transit and mobility in order to gain the support of Haligonians looking to escape the “cycle of poverty.”  Businesses will not receive such funding, as they will instead be granted unnamed legislation that will encourage private investment.

As for Health Care, Julie cites the complexity and dysfunctionality of our province’s organizational structure as the source of the problem before she identifies what that exact problem is. Regardless, the undefined problem is solved through a simplification of organization, implying that front line healthcare professionals ought to have more control in the “decision making process.” So are triage nurses going to be splitting their time in conference rooms?

Immigration priorities are undefined, though Julie’s promotion of international students looking to stay in Nova Scotia suggests that she prefers that the province is not simply a layover for students to attend our universities, earn the right to stay longer and then take off to Toronto.

Part of the plan to “attract and retain” people in this province is to propose to lower the HST from 15% to 13%. At its core, Julie wants to make sure environmentalism, job creation, poverty reduction and something called “social leadership” has a seat at the table next to the budget numbers.

On the Technology side, Julie is looking to integrate systems including blockchain to engage and empower rural and urban citizens. Her official notice on electronic infrastructure does not address the lack of high-speed internet in many parts of the province, but she throws open a call to the comment section on how they would like to leverage technology. Her use of the self-description “disruptor” is awfully trendy and leads me to believe that her copywriter is a bit out-of-step with what PC voters seek.

With our Public Service facing a wave of retirements, Julie wishes to move on the attrition of over 25% of the current government work force by determining how many staff are needed in the future by looking at the needs of the communities served. This kind of slow-and-steady approach seems to be the modus operandi of Julie’s policy implementation, where top-down is toppled in favor of the cold molasses pace of public consultation.

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