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.

Positive Change for NS Health Care

Today I had the pleasure of introducing my friend, and the next Premier of Nova Scotia, Jamie Baillie, at a rally held at our Halifax Citadel – Sable Island HQ. This is an incredibly important issue for the constituents of Halifax Citadel – Sable Island, so I wanted to share my remarks and the video for residents to view.

Good morning everybody.

Happy Victoria Day!

Is everyone having a great weekend?

People here in Halifax Citadel-Sable Island and across the province are facing a clear choice in eight days.

A choice between Stephen McNeil’s status quo health care system in crisis…

Or Jamie Baillie’s long term vision for a healthier Nova Scotia and a fiscally responsible plan of action to get us there.

Knocking on doors in this constituency, here’s what I have been hearing.

I’ve heard from one of our leading surgeons who told me our doctors have been shut out from decision-making – something Stephen McNeil finally acknowledged in the middle of an election campaign after three and a half years as Premier.

I’ve heard from a physiotherapist – someone who presents on pain management around the world – who isn’t consulted on the same topic here at home.

I’ve heard from a nurse – just this weekend – who said it sure would be nice to work at a hospital where there isn’t a code census almost every day.

I’ve heard from a psychiatrist who is worried that the one size fits all approach by senior health care administrators is challenging the ability to deliver good mental health care.

I’ve heard from medical students, nursing students, pharmacy students who wonder whether there’s a future for them here in Nova Scotia.

I’ve heard from seniors and persons with disabilities who are worried about losing outpatient services to a remote location in an industrial park.

I’ve heard from someone who wrote our government seeking help to bring his son and daughter-in-law – both doctors – home to Nova Scotia.

You know what answer this person got from Stephen McNeil’s government?

Nothing. No answer.

That is not acceptable. As MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, I will give voice to the people in this constituency who have been ignored by their government.
I could literally write a book on what the people of Halifax Citadel-Sable have told me about health care in this province.

Yet Stephen McNeil fails to accept the serious crisis in health care that is raging while he’s sitting in the Premier’s Office.

I was never so proud of our leader Jamie Baillie when he held Stephen McNeil accountable for his promise from the last election of a doctor for every Nova Scotian.

I know that Jamie Baillie is a leader who is positive, inclusive, respectful and open – not angry, dismissive and arrogant.

For those who want positive change in health care, let’s elect MLAs who will stand up for better health care – working with our health care professionals.

For those who want positive change in health care, let’s make sure we have a Premier who will listen, who has vision, who has a plan of action…

My friend and our next Premier – Jamie Baillie!

Championing Change in Health Care

I don’t know which party is going to win the provincial election. I don’t know if the people of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island will honour me wth a mandate to work for them as their MLA.

I do know that health care needs attention now. Day after day, voters continue to raise it with me.

On Saturday alone:

– I met a nurse who told me: “it sure would be nice to not have a Code Census almost every day.”

– I met with medical students and nursing students who are wondering whether they should stay in Nova Scotia after graduation.

– I met with a 10 year health authority employee who, when I asked them whether Stephen McNeil was correct in saying that health care was not in crisis, replied simply: “he’s wrong.”

– I met with another senior who, literally, expressed her concern with the McNeil plan to move outpatient services to Bayers Lake.

As MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, I will champion change in health care, based on evidence and expertise from front line health care professionals.

I will listen. I will respond. I will take action. I will bring people together to achieve solutions.

I hope voters will give me that opportunity. Health care is too important to continue with the status quo.

All Candidate Forum: An Opportunity to Share Ideas

Last night, I participated in an all-candidate forum for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island and Halifax Chebucto on Vision and Values.

I would like to thank the different faith communities and other organizations that came together to sponsor this forum at the historic St. Andrew’s United Church (a fun fact that I didn’t share at the forum: Jamie Baillie and his wife Sandra Crowell were married here!).

It was great to be on the same stage with my Liberal and NDP opponents (as well as our counterparts from Halifax Chebucto). While we disagree on many issues, I was touched by the stories they shared, including Labi Kousoulis’s heartfelt tribute to his late immigrant parents and Glenn Walton’s open dialogue with his students at Saint Mary’s University in the aftermath of the Quebec City Mosque killings.

For those who weren’t able to attend, here are some of the things I touched on in my remarks and responses to questions on the topics of poverty, the environment, a welcoming community, housing and mental health:

Action over words

My parents taught me that deeds matter more than words. They set an example by action, not talk. That’s the approach I have taken in my work and in my volunteer experience to help people. Good ideas can come from anywhere. After a lot of divisiveness in Nova Scotia politics, we need MLAs who can work across party lines. When I was President of Neptune Theatre, I didn’t criticize the NDP when they cut our funding. I worked with then Culture Minister Leonard Preyra (a New Democrat) to get a reinvestment back into Neptune. When I was chair of the board of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, I worked with Immigration Minister Lena Diab (a Liberal) to pursue and support federal and provincial policy changes to increase the number of newcomers to Nova Scotia.

Addressing Poverty

Poverty can’t be solved by government policy alone. You need private sector economic growth (particularly in a province like Nova Scotia that had the worst rate of economic growth in Canada last year and has seen employment drop over the last eight years) to generate the revenues for government to invest in policy solutions, working together with our valuable not-for-profit community groups.

Focusing on the Environment

Nova Scotia became Canada’s leader in greenhouse gas reductions because of all-party support of a previous PC government’s Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA), followed by hard caps on emissions imposed by the former NDP government. With EGSPA about a decade old, we need to modernize it and set climate change goals for the next 30 years, working with all political parties, the environmental movement, industry and other partners.

Welcoming and Supporting New Nova Scotians

Except for our Indigenous peoples, we are all immigrants to Nova Scotia. One of the best things about Halifax Citadel-Sable Island is the diversity, skills and experience brought by our international students. When I meet those students campaigning, I always tell them: thank you for choosing Halifax, Nova Scotia and Canada – as MLA, I will work for you, even if you can’t vote for me. As chair of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, I have urged the provincial government to respond favourably to the request of Mayor Mike Savage and Council to extend municipal voting rights to permanent residents, since they pay taxes, let’s give our new members of the Canadian family a voice in our democracy.

My faith community has also sponsored a Syrian refugee family of six to Halifax. Evidence shows that the best way to connect newcomers to Canada is through private sponsorship. Unfortunately, the turmoil caused by the government in our classrooms have made it more challenging to integrate refugee children.

Housing Strategy

We need a more aggressive approach to all forms of housing, including seniors housing, particularly with the failure of the NDP and Liberal governments to work with the community on an affordable housing approach to the former Bloomfield school. There continues to be concerns with our seniors.

Prioritizing Mental Health

Everyone is touched by mental health – ether personally or with a loved one. All political parties support action on mental health. Whether it’s a majority government or minority government, let’s get on with the task at hand to invest in better mental health services without delay, starting in our schools.

I can’t wait for a Halifax Citadel-Sable Island only candidate forum on Wednesday, May 24, at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

You can learn more about the PC Team’s vision for Nova Scotian – including the issues raised above by reading through our platform.

Jamie Baillie: Leadership that brings Nova Scotia Together and Moves us Forward

Tonight, the three major party leaders will be debating Nova Scotia’s future on CBC.

I thought I would share my own perspective on my leader Jamie Baillie.

I first met Jamie more than 23 years ago.  He was a smart young guy (by the way, I was much younger! 🙂 ) trying to rebuild a Progressive Conservative Party that had been soundly rejected by the voters in the previous year.  He had a curiosity for new ideas.  He had a creativity to explore different points of view.  And he was looking to bring new people into the conversation – people who hadn’t necessarily considered themselves to be Progressive Conservative.

From 2002 through 2004, we had the opportunity to work together in Premier John Hamm’s office – he as chief of staff, me as press secretary and ultimately as communications director.  I remember how hard he worked as a rookie chief of staff to help Premier John Hamm deliver Nova Scotia’s first truly balanced budget in 2002.  I remember how he supported Premier Hamm in providing stability to health care, public education and universities through stable multi-year funding.  I remember how integral he was in securing government approval for the transformation of the Nova Scotia Community College into a modern network across the province.  I remember how he quarterbacked government-wide efforts to champion a better health care deal from Ottawa (working with our public sector partners in the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union and Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union), culminating in the 2004 Health Accord, and putting in place the fundamentals that resulted in the 2005 Offshore Accord.

A paragraph doesn’t do justice to Jamie’s public service record. His accomplishments in the private sector and in the community would also merit separate posts.

Here’s the thing.  In the last election, I said Jamie Baillie was the best choice for Premier, but the sky wouldn’t fall if either Darrell Dexter remained as Premier or Stephen McNeil became Premier.

We now know the kind of Premier that Stephen McNeil is.  I am not going to be unduly critical of a fellow Montreal Canadiens fan, but my assessment of the Nova Scotia government’s performance since 2013 is that our province desperately needs someone new in the Premier’s Office.

Jamie Baillie is the only leader ready to bring positive change to Nova Scotia as the province’s Premier on Day One.

I hope you reach the same conclusion after tonight’s debate.

Importance of Election Campaign Debates

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in my first election campaign debate.

As you may recall, when Stephen McNeil called the election, I had hoped for a series of Halifax Citadel-Sable Island debates with my opponents.

Despite my invitation to the other two candidates (the Green Party had yet to nominate a candidate), it has become clear that my enthusiasm for debates is not shared by one or more of my opponents.

We still have a joint Halifax Citadel-Sable Island/Halifax Chebucto debate scheduled for this coming Friday at St. Andrew’s United Church. While I wish we had more constituency debates, voters interested in these kinds of events should know that the lack of multiple debate opportunities was not due to lack of effort on the part of me and my campaign team.

In any case, I was happy to accept the invitation to represent the Nova Scotia PC Party at an environment forum sponsored by the Ecology Action Centre, ECELaw and the Sierra Club and held in our constituency at the University of King’s College.

Our environment is important to me as a person, and important to our party.

In fact, the Progressive Conservative vision is that Nova Scotia should be an economic, social and environmental leader for others in the world to follow.

Each of the parties has helped move Nova Scotia toward a more sustainable future.

While in government, the PC Party sponsored the landmark Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, with the support of the Liberals and the NDP.

The current Liberal government provided regular operating support for public transit in the province.

The NDP introduced hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Green Party has been the most consistent opponent of carbon-based fuels.

As MLA, I will work to identify common ground among the political parties to strengthen protections for our environment.

The PC platform includes the following commitments to Nova Scotians:

  • modernizing and extending the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act;
  • passing a Clean Air Act and setting enforceable standards for emissions;
  • launching the Environmental Reclamation and Community Fund, which will create jobs and invest in making Nova Scotia greener; and
  • establishing an Eco-Tourism Task Force to take full advantage of the tourism benefits of a healthy environment.

More important than any party’s individual platform, it’s important to elect MLAs who can work together to implement good ideas regardless of the source.

That’s why I want to be the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.