N.S. Tories ready to re­build

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BYME­LANIE PAT­TEN

HAL­I­FAX — Nova Sco­tia’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives emerged reen­er­gized Sun­day from their first an­nual meet­ing since be­ing sent to the op­po­si­tion benches, but un­der no il­lu­sions about the chal­lenges ahead.

Ten years of Tory rule came to an end last June when the NDP cruised to an his­toric ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment, re­duc­ing the Con­ser­va­tives to third-place sta­tus.

Eight months later, Tories say they are ready to re­build and re­gain lost mo­men­tum.

“The PC party is still alive, it’s not dead,” Rob Smith, a district vice-pres­i­dent with the party, said as the meet­ing wrapped up Sun­day.

“It’s al­ways a chal­lenge when you’re out of of­fice, but you also take ad­van­tage of th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties. You have to build on the ac­com­plish­ments.”

In­terim Con­ser­va­tive Leader Karen Casey said the party’s mem­ber­ship is aware of the dif­fi­cult task ahead, es­pe­cially with only nine seats in the 52-seat leg­is­la­ture.

She said part of the party’s strat­egy be­tween elec­tions will be to re­gain the sup­port it lost in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia.

“The ru­ral base that we had has been eroded,” Casey told re­porters over the week­end.

De­spite the hur­dles ahead, the party’s pres­i­dent said Con­ser­va­tives are more up­beat this time around than in pre­vi­ous elec­toral de­feats, in­clud­ing their 1993 elec­tion loss to the Lib­er­als.

“It was a lot dif­fer­ent feel­ing in 1994,” said Rob Bather­son, re­call­ing the glum mood of the party’s an­nual gath­er­ing fol­low­ing the elec­tion.

He cred­ited this year’s quick turn­around to re­gional meet­ings held shortly af­ter the elec­tion that al­lowed mem­bers to dis­cuss what went right and what didn’t.

“By the time we got here to this con­ven­tion, I think most party mem­bers are now looking for­ward, not back.”

Bather­son said it will be im­por­tant for Tories to come to­gether and rally be­hind the next leader when one is cho­sen at a con­ven­tion in late Oc­to­ber. A num­ber of Con­ser­va­tives said over the week­end they were mulling a run at the top job, in­clud­ing Casey and for­mer Tory cab­i­net min­is­ter Chris d’En­tremont.

Other pos­si­ble con­tenders in­clude Bill Black, who ran un­suc­cess­fully for the party’s top job in 2006, and Jamie Bail­lie, who was chief of staff when John Hamm was premier. Bail­lie said he be­lieves Nova Sco­tians are al­ready dis­sat­is­fied with Premier Dar­rell Dex­ter’s gov­ern­ment, and the Con­ser­va­tives must be ready to present an al­ter­na­tive when the next elec­tion rolls around.

Black said the party has to re­gain its roots as a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party and de­velop clear and con­sis­tent poli­cies if it wants to come out on top next time. “The only dis­tinc­tive fea­ture we have is his­tory and no­body’s go­ing to vote for his­tory,” he said.

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