The potential next leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, Pictou East MLA Tim Houston, was in Antigonish, Jan. 8, to meet with the St.F.X. Conservatives group.
Houston held a launch party for his campaign this past Nov. 19 in New Glasgow; a little less than three weeks after leader Jamie Baillie announced he was stepping down. Baillie’s Nov. 1 decision came after a Liberal narrow majority win in the May 30 provincial election, of last year.
“After the election, Jamie made it known he was going to consider his future and, when he made that known, I also decided I wanted to consider my future,” Houston said in an interview with the Casket, just prior to meeting the students.
“Some people may say it’s early, they do say that, but for me, it’s just the right time. I don’t need to sit on the fence and pretend I don’t know and be cajoled, or whatever the case may be. I made a decision after a lot of soul searching and speaking to my family, friends, and just asking myself, what’s right for me and what’s right for the party. I made the decision to seek the leadership, I want to be the leader of the party, and, I think, on balance, that’s a well-respected decision.”
Houston said people want to know “who is in” as far as wanting to take the leadership reins.
“They don’t want any game-playing; they want to get on with it and so they should. We [Nova Scotia] have a thin majority government and anything could happen at any time; and if we want to be ready to form a government, we need to be ready and the best way to do that is to get on with the leadership process.
“I’m encouraging us, as a party, to get on with the process. So I have to lead with my actions which are, right away, saying I’m ready to be leader.”
He talked about meeting with the university students and connecting with that demographic going forward.
“A lot of the issues we have around the province; big issues such as healthcare, education, transportation – looking after our roads, all these kinds of things, they all stem from the fact our economy isn’t operating like it should be,” he said, prefacing his answer.
“We don’t have the tax revenue to provide the services we need to be providing. So we need to look at; what do we need to do to improve our economy? What do we do to create a dynamic economy here?
“And young people entering the workforce are a huge part of that. So I’m talking to them today and asking what do they want to see for this province. What would they like to see done differently, what are they excited about, where do they see the opportunities for them and, I hope, they see those opportunities right here in Nova Scotia.”
Acknowledging that his party did gain somewhat on the Liberals, from the 2013 election to the one last year, Houston was asked about how he, as leader, would further close the gap.
“Just continue the momentum; we need to continue the momentum that we received from the voters in the last election,” he said.
“But, I think, there is still a perception the party is a little disconnected from the voters … as are all parties. Fifty-four per cent voter turnout; potential voters spoke loud and clear, they said, ‘we don’t care.’ So, I think, the next leader of our party will be faced with the job of connecting with people and showing them that their opinion matters.
“We need a thoughtful, compassionate government in this province and, I think, that’s one of the perspectives I bring. I can be thoughtful, I can listen to different perspectives, try to wade through them and find the solution that works for that issue at that point and time. That’s going to be important.”
He talked more about connecting with voters.
“I’m doing that on my tour of talking to people, listening to people; I do that in my job as an MLA,” he said.
“I think I’ve done that pretty well in Pictou East where I was, kind of, a longshot winner in 2013 with 49 per cent of the vote. This time I had 75 per cent of the vote; I’m proud of that because it means people in my area believe in me and trust me to understand what matters to them.
“The province is a lot bigger than Pictou East but, I think, people understand whether someone cares about them or not; so we just need to do the work to show them that we do care.”