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.