For anyone in Pictou County who follows provincial politics, interest just went up a notch this week. Having a contender in a leadership race from your area will grab most people’s attention, regardless of the party they tend to support.
As Pictou East MLA Tim Houston officially launched his bid Sunday in New Glasgow, local Progressive Conservatives were, naturally, particularly enthusiastic. Houston is the first out of the gates, although several other potential names have been tossed around.
He also has the declared backing of colleagues, Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane and Pictou Centre’s Pat Dunn – always good as a show of solidarity.
Those who attended the event at Glasgow Square optimistically predicted Houston, in his second term, would not only be the next leader of the PC Party, but also the next premier of Nova Scotia.
Well, one step at a time, but the supporters certainly have a basis for that optimism.
First, to deal with the more simplistic observations about patterns of political choices in the province: the Liberals are in their second term governing. Governments of the same stripe don’t – with the occasional exception – tend to last more than a couple of terms.
But let’s get away from any assumptions that a party in opposition can simply say it’s our turn now. At least we hope that’s not the case, even though the electorate often does vote with a vengeance to kick a party out as much as it elects a new one.
Looking at the last election, the Liberals managed to hang in – by their fingernails. The party has performed reasonably well on many fronts, but did have some vulnerable spots. The most glaring was the failure to deliver on a promise to see that all Nova Scotians have a family physician. Add to that the anger they’d aroused among many public sector employees over what they deemed strong-arm tactics in bargaining.
That’s not to say another party would do any different, or any better, but anger and disappointment go a long way toward affecting voter intentions.
What the electorate really needs are assurances from aspiring leaders and other parties that they do have a credible plan – about health care, education, the economy, paying the bills….
Houston has kept a fairly high profile in opposition as finance critic, and in regularly vocalizing concerns about Liberal direction – or sometimes lack thereof – on a number of files, and his comments were reported widely. That should stand him well in the upcoming leadership race, locally as well as in other parts of the province.
What the public needs to know during the coming campaign, and leading up to the next election, is what a leader or prospective new government would do differently on such issues as hiring and retaining health professionals. But they should be cautioned: people want a detailed explanation about their plan, because we’ve heard ‘promises’ before.