Thoughts from an undecided PC leadership voter

Four weeks have passed since I decided not to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia.

To the hundreds of people who have emailed, texted, messaged, called, tweeted or stopped to chat about my decision, thank you for your support, encouragement and kindness.

Since deciding not to run, I have participated in the process undertaken by the party’s provincial executive to reach decisions:

  • The timing of the leadership vote;
  • The method of selecting a leader; and
  • The rules governing the leadership selection process.

No longer being a potential candidate allowed me to engage in the discussion and decisions around these issues without it being perceived as acting on behalf of any leadership candidate. As I previously noted, we are fortunate to have Tara Erskine and MLA Chris d’Entremont co-charing the party’s leadership selection committee.

Now I’m turning my mind back to the kind of leader the PC Party needs and the kind of Premier the province needs.

Tomorrow, the 2018 Annual General Meeting of the PC Party of Nova Scotia will begin (http://pcparty.ns.ca/agm-2018/), giving a record number of Progressive Conservatives a chance to meet with declared and prospective candidates. The Halifax Citadel-Sable Island PC Association is hosting some individual meet and greets for our members with several of the candidates who accepted our invitation.

With at least five declared or prospective candidates to choose from, the PC Party’s leadership race could be the most vigorously contested in almost 30 years – perhaps even in the modern history of the PC Party.

I have spoken with each of the candidates repeatedly – before and after my own leadership decision.   They are all good people. We should be grateful for their desire to run for the leadership and serve in this critical role for our province’s future. I echo a sentiment Pictou West MLA and now interim PC Leader Karla MacFarlane told me before Christmas: “There’s not a person running for the leadership that I couldn’t work with.”

Progressive Conservatives each have their own motivations for choosing a candidate. A number of my supporters have pledged their support for some of the other candidates. Others are, like me and many others, taking time in making the most important decision a party can make – choosing its next leader. It’s a tremendously personal decision and in my opinion there is no right or wrong path.

In a blog post in November (http://robbatherson.ca/2017/11/20/choosing-our-future-the-pc-leadership-race/), I wrote the following:

“We need a leader who can communicate and connect, define what we stand for (and not just remind people what we are against and what the current government does wrong), be both a team player and team builder and lead a government as Premier.”

For what it’s worth, here are some of the things I am looking for in our next leader:

A leader whose number one priority as Premier will be ensuring our province becomes one of Canada’s economic and job creation leaders. Our ability to have a more cohesive, caring, progressive society ultimately depends on sustained, increased economic performance. We can’t afford any more years of being among Canada’s worst economic performers. We need a Premier who will champion and deliver policies that will give the private sector confidence to invest here, to hire here, to increase payroll here.

A leader who supports a positive agenda for Halifax – not only in words, but in deeds – and can inspire Halifax voters to have confidence in the kind of government we would deliver. It’s no coincidence that the PC Party is the only party that has failed to form a majority government through the five general elections of the current century. It’s been almost 20 years since we captured significant support in all parts – urban, suburban and rural – of the Halifax Regional Municipality. This must change. No more excuses.

A leader who can build a strong, united team and change our party’s culture for the better. In a previous blog post (http://robbatherson.ca/2017/12/12/building-a-better-more-inclusive-pc-party/), I highlighted the kind of changes we need to see happen to make party membership more meaningful, not only for new members but for longtime members or lapsed members who have felt left out. Successful leaders who get things done often do so by bringing people together, building a team and challenging themselves and others to do better.

A leader whose commitment to equality and human rights is without question. One of our core values as Progressive Conservatives – as outlined in our party’s vision, mission and values statement (http://pcparty.ns.ca/pc-party/our-mission/) – is respect for all, regardless of the colour of their skin, the religion they practice (or not at all) or the person they love. Our next leader must be prepared to stand up for these values and call out discrimination and intolerance when it rears its ugly head, even if it’s among their own supporters.

These are some of the things I’m thinking about in deciding who is best placed to be our next PC leader and Nova Scotia’s next Premier. What are you looking for?