Building a better, more inclusive PC Party

Embracing & respecting party members

Strengthening the ties between MLAs & the party

As I continue to get out and about to meet with PC Party members and other Nova Scotians to talk to them about the kind of PC leader they are looking for, I often meet up with declared leadership candidate Pictou East MLA Tim Houston and Kings North MLA John Lohr. Meanwhile, supporters of Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke running for the leadership are signing up on the website.

I am also thrilled to hear that Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is thinking about seeking our party’s leadership. A registered nurse and businessperson, Elizabeth served as our party’s vice president of policy prior to this spring’s election. At a time when health care is the number one issue for many Nova Scotians, she would be the only leadership candidate with front-line experience as a health care professional.

It’s a sign of strength and openness for our party when we take the time to allow a variety of different individuals to either declare they want to run or consider whether they should mount a campaign.

As I have said in the past, giving party members choice is good and should be encouraged.

This leadership race goes deeper than just the kind of leader we want to see.

It’s about the kind of party we want to present to Nova Scotians.

How do we build a political party that not only wins elections, but more importantly:

  • provides a good government that will stay connected with voters;
  • works with other political parties to make positive change happen; and
  • restores voter confidence in our democratic institutions?

There’s a natural ebb and flow in the life of political party.

An ebb and flow that always comes down to the people who involve themselves in a party.

MLAs get elected, then leave of their own accord or are “invited to leave” by the voters.

Candidates run for office. Some stay involved and/or run again. Others don’t and fall away from the party for a variety of reasons.

Volunteer party members assume leadership roles, locally and provincially.

Some stay involved, others decide to reduce their involvement or leave the party altogether.

Frankly, sometimes people stay in one role for too long and end up being a barrier to others growing within the organization (in turn, the party could use the talents of that long-serving office holder in another role).

The professional staffers who work for our leader and MLAs change over time.

Campaign teams change between election cycles, both locally and provincially.

Over two plus decades, I have witnessed:

  • MLAs who have been frustrated by “the party” and/or a leader’s “inner circle” or provincial campaign team;
  • Party members who have felt unappreciated or ignored by MLAs, their staff and/or provincial campaign teams;
  • Candidates who believe they weren’t listened to and essentially discarded after the election; and
  • Constituency associations that struggle to attract new members or even retain the members they have, resulting in burnout and frustration.

These issues aren’t specific to any one leader. But the next leader must look at these issues honestly and consider what changes need to take place as a party, so we don’t fall back as an organization. We need to keep building on the encouraging results of the 2017 election, our party’s best results in more than a decade.

The next PC leader must bring Progressive Conservatives together, not divide them.

The next PC leader must keep the doors open to any Nova Scotian who believes in our vision, mission and values.

The next PC leader must set not only the tone from the top, but also a clear direction on the kind of political party we should aspire to be.

Our PC Party must be one that embraces and respects the party member, as a volunteer who gives of their time, their talent, their ideas and often times their funds.

An organization that provides someone a meaningful opportunity to make our province better is more than likely to keep that member and attract others to the cause.  On the other hand, if we shut people out or turn them away, we will lose the benefit of their experience and contributions.

Our PC Party must be one that ensures elected MLAs have greater involvement in party policy development, organization and governance.

We should amend the party’s constitution to entrench the right of an MLA to co-chair the party’s policy committee, organization committee and constitution committee. MLAs have a vested interest in fundamental party decision-making and should be at the table before decisions are made. As successful candidates, MLAs also have unique insights that our party should tap into constantly.

Our PC Party must include a clear, transparent and member-driven policy development process. We need to have a Nova Scotia PC Party policy statement – developed by and approved by Progressive Conservatives – in place well in advance of the next general election.

Party members would no longer be left wondering whatever happened to decisions made at policy conferences. Most important of all, when someone asks “what does the PC Party stand for?” – we will have something to point to, instead of just the latest news release attacking Stephen McNeil’s Liberals.

Anybody can criticize Stephen McNeil’s Liberals. We need a leader who’s more than a critic. We need a leader who can build and lead a better party and government to replace the Liberals.

Let’s use the Progressive Conservative leadership race as an opportunity to build a better, more inclusive PC Party that will govern Nova Scotia well.   This is a fantastic chance to change things up for the better.