The Road Ahead – What’s Next?

More than a week has passed since the provincial election.

One of the questions an unsuccessful candidate gets asked in the aftermath of a campaign is: “will you run again?”

It’s not a terribly surprising question from your supporters who have invested a lot of time and effort in you.

It’s also something that comes to mind to those who have voted for you, share your disappointment in the outcome and still think you would be up to the job as their elected representative.

It has been so heartening and humbling to hear from so many Halifax Citadel-Sable Island residents after the election. Some I know. Others I don’t. I am deeply thankful for their words of support and encouragement.

I know I’m not alone among our party’s candidates across the province in continuing to hear from voters.

Indeed, some of my fellow PC candidates have already announced their intention to run again in their constituencies in the next general election.

That’s great for them, their supporters and their constituencies.

Every candidate’s journey is unique, however.

The questions I asked myself prior to running in this last election will be the questions I will ask myself before deciding to launch another campaign.

Will I make a positive difference for my community in this role?

Do I truly feel I am the best person to run?

Am I comfortable with the party leader, the direction they are taking and their vision and plan for the community, province and country?

Is my family able to be supportive of my candidacy and, if successful, of my being an elected office holder?

Is this fair for my business partners, co-workers and clients?

There will come a time when I will need to answer these questions. That time is several years down the road.

In the meantime, here’s what I will be doing.

I will be working hard on building our company’s public relations and creative social business, with a move to a new downtown Halifax location planned for the summer.

I will continue to find ways to contribute to our community through my volunteer board service for organizations based in Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, along with helping organize two charitable events for this fall in Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.

I will proudly continue my involvement in the Halifax Citadel-Sable Island Progressive Conservative Association as the candidate of record. This association and campaign team stood by me, worked with me and believed in me. Regardless of my future plans, I will be there to support the association in any way I can to build on the progress we achieved in this election campaign.

So don’t be surprised if you see me out and about in the community over the summer and into the fall.

I’ll also be making some changes to robbatherson.ca to remove some of the sections related to the 2017 election.

And if you want to say hello, offer advice, ask questions or pass along issues that you want raised by Nova Scotia’s Official Opposition, don’t hesitate to contact me anytime at rob@robbatherson.ca.

The election campaign is over. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop the community conversation that we started together. Let’s keep it going!

Rob

Gratitude, Reflection and Thanks

“Hey, I voted for you.”

The voice wasn’t an immediately familiar one as I was leaving a downtown establishment following lunch Friday with a longtime friend.

I turned around and the voice reintroduced himself. He was someone who worked at the establishment where I had enjoyed my patio lunch, we shook hands, I thanked him and he added: “and my girlfriend voted for you too.”

We laughed that the credit for their votes probably went to a much younger canvass partner who was more aggressive in pigeonholing votes for me in the last week of the election campaign than I could have ever imagined (perhaps there’s a lesson there!).

It has been a quite whirlwind of a week as I accept the verdict of voters to choose the incumbent as MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island and return to my “old life” – starting with going back to work at my company Wednesday morning.

Reconnecting with co-workers and clients.

Returning phone calls and emails from Halifax Citadel-Sable Island supporters.

Working with my campaign team on wrapping up all the loose ends post-election.

Attending two community events I had been involved in held in the constituency (Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame and A Celebration for retiring Mount Saint Vincent University President Ramona Lumpkin).

Re-engaging in some of my community work (Neptune Theatre and Halifax Stanfield International Airport).

Breakfast with my longtime friend Jamie Baillie.

Responding to a couple of media requests.

Working on a plan to thank the campaign team over the summer.

Through it all, the question that keeps coming up is: how are you?

There are plenty of answers I could give to that question.

Am I disappointed that I don’t have a mandate from enough Halifax Citadel-Sable Island voters to get to work on their priorities? Absolutely.

Do I feel like I have let my campaign team down, my supporters down, my party and my leader down for not being more successful in this election? Of course.

But the overarching feeling in my heart now is one of gratitude.

Gratitude for the people who did support me – through their votes, their time and other means.

Gratitude that support for the PC Party is up considerably in this constituency and we have reduced the gap to victory by 50%.

Gratitude for the people who didn’t support me, but respected me enough to tell me why.

Gratitude for a passionate, engaged and committed campaign team – with first time volunteers bringing new energy and skills, combined with those who brought with them the benefit of experience.

Gratitude that my Progressive Conservative Party has come out of this campaign with more support and more seats than at any time since the 2006 election, including seven new MLAs, five female MLAs and three MLAs in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Gratitude for the ongoing love and respect of my family. There’s something to be said about spending Saturday morning walking to the beach with your son, instead of starting another round of door knocking!

What does this all mean for the future?

I’ll have some thoughts on that in a future post.

Gratefully,
Rob

Election Day is Here!

It’s finally election day in Nova Scotia. I’m sure for many of you hearing about the election on the news, through social media and over the family supper table has made this a long month!

Running a campaign is a huge undertaking, one that relies on the support from dedicated volunteers who pull long hours without much glitz or glamour.

I also want to recognize my family today, and the families of all candidates, who give up a great deal so that their loved one can go after their goals.

Lastly, I want to commend each candidate from every party who chose to put their name forward for public office. It’s a courageous decision and one that I know doesn’t come easy.

I’ll be out in Halifax Citadel – Sable Island today in the hopes of meeting more residents. Our office is open and full of energy today, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our volunteers if you’re undecided on who you’d like to vote for and want to learn more about me, if you need information on how to vote, or if you need a drive to get to your poll.

Address:
1482 Queen St,
Halifax, NS
B3J 2H7

Contact Us:
e: info@robbatherson.ca
p: (902) 809-4ROB (4762)

We’re here for you.

Thanks for the honour of letting me meet so many of you the last 30 days. I ask for your support so that we can continue to work together for a better Halifax Citadel – Sable Island and a more prosperous Nova Scotia.

Tomorrow is Election Day

One more day to go before Election Day in Nova Scotia.

It’s been quite a month, listening to and learning from the people of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.

It’s been a month of people sharing their fears, concerns, hopes and dreams with me.

It’s been a month of countless volunteers giving of their time, talent and resources to help me (help that will be kicking into overdrive today and tomorrow!)

Every conversation has brought me closer to the people of this constituency.

What an honour and a privilege it would be to have a mandate from the people to go to work on their behalf at Province House.

Regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, I will forever cherish the amazing experiences brought about through this campaign.

I will forever be thankful for the people from all our different political persuasions – PC, Liberal, NDP, Green and none of the above – who honour me with their confidence to be the voice for positive change and strong, respectful, visible representation.

If you haven’t voted yet, there is still time today at the Returning Office on the 3rd Floor, 5475 Spring Garden Road until 6 pm.

And on Tuesday, May 30, you can vote from 8 am to 8 pm. Check electionsnovascotia.ca for specific info.

Regardless of who you support in this election, please take the time to vote.

In the meantime, thank you Halifax Citadel-Sable Island!

The final stretch

Because being elected to represent a community is having the humility and strength of character to respect the voters.

There are two days left for me to share my vision with the people of Halifax Citadel–Sable Island. To show you why I am the person that you should choose to represent this wonderful constituency beginning on May 31. To give you the confidence that a vote for me is a vote for the change we need.

It’s no secret that I’ve been involved in politics for many years – I was Press Secretary and ultimately Director of Communications for Premier John Hamm, I’ve served as President of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party, and in recent years in addition to owning and leading a successful communications firm in downtown Halifax, I’ve worked on many campaigns at municipal, provincial and federal levels.

Political activity has only been one part of who I am. It’s one part of how I try to make a difference in our community. For the last decade, I have served on the board of Neptune Theatre, including three years as president. I spent eight years on the board of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, including a year as chair. I have supported community efforts to welcome refugees to Halifax.

None of this has been about holding an office or having a title, it’s been about working together with others to get things done.

With Neptune, I will remember the work we did behind the scenes to convince then Culture Minister Leonard Preyra to reinvest in Neptune after funding cuts earlier in the former NDP government’s mandate. I will remember working with our team to secure major legacy financial gifts from charitable Nova Scotians. I will remember working with Mayor Mike Savage and Councilor Waye Mason to put in place an arts and culture strategy for our city.

With the Halifax Chamber, I will remember reaching out to a Deputy Minister in the Stephen McNeil government to help a small business cut through some red tape so they could literally stay in business and not put people out of work.

Working with people to help others and do good for our community is what I enjoy the most.

For many, seeing my name on a ballot was a given. Trust me, it was never a given in my home.

While I’ve been an active participant in the democratic process, I knew that before I decided to run for office, I had to ask myself: would I hold true to the values and attributes I always felt necessary to hold public office?

Because being elected to represent a community is having the humility and strength of character to respect the voters.

I’ve said repeatedly throughout this campaign that I will be your voice, I will be visible and I will be responsive at all times – not just at an election time.

This means that if elected, I’ll be there to listen, to answer phone calls and emails, to speak up and to show up.

Not just in good times, but when there are inevitable roadblocks.

That’s showing leadership.

Voters need to decide whether during the last three and a half years, we have seen this from Stephen McNeil and his candidate in Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.

When doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, the Mayor of Halifax and senior municipal staff express opposition or concern about moving outpatient services off peninsula Halifax, shouldn’t we have an MLA who listens to them?

When our arts and culture professionals want a provincial government that will work them on issues like the film tax credit, shouldn’t we have an MLA who will hear their concerns and take action?

When our university students and their families are struggling with sky-high tuitions, shouldn’t we have an MLA who will stand with them to find solutions?

When local residents, Mayor Mike Savage and Regional Council ask for sensible amendments to the province’s Heritage Property Act, shouldn’t we have an MLA who will take up their cause?

When a constituent raises concerns, even if they are critical, isn’t the job of the MLA to listen, respond and be respectful?

Leadership is building trust, leading by example and requires humility.

Have we seen this from our current government and our MLA for the last three and a half years?

Representing your fellow citizens is an honour that should never be taken for granted.

It’s an exceptional privilege that comes with great responsibility. I know this. I accept this. And if chosen to be the MLA for Halifax Citadel – Sable Island, I will honour this.

On May 30, I ask for your support.

Let’s Vote for Change

This morning, I will be welcoming PC Leader Jamie Baillie to Halifax Citadel-Sable Island for the third time this week.

We will be at the Halifax Seaport Market from 8:45 am to 9:30 am. If you’re in the area, drop on by to say hello!

Jamie continues to show through the course of this campaign – most recently at the CTV roundtable on Thursday – that he is the only person capable of replacing Stephen McNeil as Premier.

I respect those who feel Stephen McNeil should continue as Premier (although I obviously don’t agree! :)), but I believe the majority of Nova Scotians and the majority of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island voters want a positive change in the Premier’s Office.

It was interesting to note overnight that The MacDonald Notebook online news publication is quoting former NDP President David Wallbridge – a resident of Halifax Chebucto where NDP Leader Gary Burrill is running for the legislature – as saying that the NDP will not form the government in Tuesday’s general election.

I respect the principles and values of longtime New Democrats. Many of my extended family members have supported the NDP (I’m sure my late Granny to her dying day wondered how her grandson became a Tory!).

The current political landscape suggests, however, that voting NDP in this election will not deliver the kind of progressive change in leadership that most Nova Scotians want.

I therefore respectfully invite Halifax Citadel-Sable Island voters to consider the advice of longtime New Democrat, labour leader and former candidate Linda Power who announced several weeks ago: “For the first time in my life, I am voting Progressive Conservative. We can’t risk having Stephen McNeil in the Premier’s Office any longer.”

Jamie made a similar invitation in the CTV leader’s debate. He was criticized for it by Stephen McNeil and Gary Burrill.

But in a democracy, shouldn’t candidates invite people to vote for them? Even people who have never previously voted for that option in the past?

Standing up for our Creative Economy

Yesterday afternoon, as I knocked on doors in a downtown Halifax apartment building, a young person opened the door to be faced with a question I often pose voters: “what is the most important issue for you in this election?”

His answer: “what are you going to do about the film industry because I lost my job when Stephen McNeil got rid of the film tax credit?”

Earlier in the week, I received a note from another Halifax Citadel-Sable Island voter, a well-established, experienced entrepreneur.

Among his comments to me: “many longtime friends have had their lives ruined by the pointless destruction of our film industry.”

Why don’t we make a change in government and a change in representation, so we can be focused on creating jobs for Nova Scotians here at home, instead of watching them leave the province?

I am running to be the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island to be a partner with our film and creative industries. I will be a champion for arts and culture – in all its wonderful forms, commercial and non-commercial – not just at election time, but all the time. With a decade of experience on Neptune Theatre’s board – including three years as volunteer President – I have experience working with a wide range of individuals, artists and others from different backgrounds to make good things happen.

I am running to be the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island so we can work with the film and creative industries to bring back a film tax credit that works and puts Nova Scotians to work.

Nova Scotia Seniors Deserve Better

Seniors are perhaps the toughest audience I face on the campaign trail.

Part of it is due to the fact that when it comes to politicians, our seniors have heard it all and seen it all. If anyone deserves to be cynical about politics and politicians, it’s our seniors. As someone who is seeking their support to become MLA, what I can possibly say that will give them hope and confidence?

Despite this reality, seniors generally vote in higher numbers than the rest of the population. Seniors also understand the dynamics at play in terms of their growing numbers and the consequences of fewer people working in Nova Scotia and the resulting challenges in not having a sufficiently robust economy and tax base.

Suffice to say, it’s important to not generalize the concerns of seniors – they care about many of the same things as their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (plus they have the benefit of considerable life experience).

There are nonetheless a number of important steps we can take to specifically help our older citizens.

As MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, I will fight for our seniors with the PC plan to treat seniors with dignity and respect, by:

– passing a Seniors’ Bill of Rights that keeps couples in care together and makes quality meals the law;
– freezing the Seniors’ Pharmacare cost-share ratio so governments can’t make seniors pay more than their fair share;
– helping low-income seniors with the cost of home repair projects; and
– enacting a Safer Homes Act to make sure housing authorities make repairs to homes in a timely manner.

A number of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island seniors have also asked me about the loss of longstanding polling stations in their seniors’ residences. While I respect the independence of Elections Nova Scotia to make these decisions free of political interference, once this election is completed, we need to direct the all-party Elections Commission to determine how we keep voting accessible, particularly those voters who have accessibility issues. Perhaps the Seniors Bill of Rights’ could provide a legislative remedy in this regard?

Working together, respectfully, with our educators

Last night, I met an elementary school teacher when I knocked on her door. Although health care continues to be the most frequent issue raised with me by Halifax Citadel-Sable Island voters, I do keep hearing from people concerned about how we – as PC Leader Jamie Baillie often says – heal the wounds that exist in our schools, thanks primarily to the past year. It’s not just teachers who are concerned. It’s their colleagues who are teaching assistants (one of whom I met at her home on Sunday). It’s parents and grandparents of children in the public education system. Frankly, it’s anyone who believes in the importance of education as the foundation for our progress as a society.

There’s a lot of negativity about Stephen McNeil’s record in education. That’s not spin from the opposition parties or the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. That’s just the real world view of many Nova Scotians.

Rather than spend more time talking about Stephen McNeil (or frankly the record of deep cuts by the NDP government that came before Stephen McNeil), I prefer spending my time talking about the kind of positive changes I would champion as MLA.

History shows the deep connection between the PC Party and public education in this province.

It was a Progressive Conservative – Sir Charles Tupper – who introduced public education to Nova Scotia. Many longtime education observers still refer to the late Terry Donahoe – a former longtime Progressive Conservative MLA for this constituency – as the province’s best Minister of Education since the Second World War. My friend the late Jane Purves certainly had her share of challenges as Minister of Education, but she championed smart policies like multi-year funding agreements for school boards and universities and a school construction program that led to our own Citadel High School.

Consistent with that tradition, I invite you to read the PC Party’s platform on education at www.pcparty.ns.ca/platform

As MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, I want to be part of a team that will bring Nova Scotians together for better solutions for our children.

Listening and Collaborating with Municipal Government

Later today, PC Leader Jamie Baillie and I will be visiting Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Regional Council at City Hall to discuss issues of importance to the citizens of Halifax Regional Municipality.

Residents of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island tell me they want their three levels of government to work together in the community’s interest. We should never allow important policy matters to devolve into statements along the lines of “I’m the Premier, he’s the Mayor” when questions arise about why decisions are made by either level of government.

As a business person and a volunteer, I have worked across party lines to secure investments in arts and culture and post-secondary education. I have championed greater immigration and extending municipal voting rights for permanent residents. My record is one of listening and collaboration with our municipal government.

As MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, I will be a strong, tireless voice for urban priorities, including:

– ensuring the allocation of provincial services is subject to a sustainability and planning lens, with open community consultation, so we don’t see more decisions like the loss of Access Nova Scotia to Bayers Lake under the NDP and now the proposed move of outpatient health services to Bayers Lake under the McNeil Liberals;
– working with the Mayor and Council to update the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter, first passed under a previous PC government, for the benefit of citizens and taxpayers;
– investing in quality public transit – something that is personally important as a Halifax Transit user myself; and
– keeping the lines of communication open, so that we don’t blindside our municipal partners, as we have seen with the proposed outpatient health centre move.

As MLA, I will stand up at Province House for our constituency and the municipality, so that the concerns of our residents aren’t taken for granted.