Pic­tou County's his­tory of Tory lead­er­ship

Tim Hous­ton lat­est in se­ries of Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive lead­ers from Pic­tou County


Pic­tou County res­i­dent Brenda Wil­son got goose­bumps as she saw Pic­tou East MLA Tim Hous­ton’s op­po­nents in the lead­er­ship race cross the floor af­ter the first round of vot­ing to throw their sup­port be­hind him.

At the con­ven­tion where the PC Party chose its next leader, she es­ti­mates there were about 1,000 peo­ple from Pic­tou County, leav­ing some there to ques­tion whether there was any­one left in Pic­tou County that day.

“It was a great day to be from Pic­tou County,” she said.

But when it comes to Pic­tou County and the PC Party, there have been a lot of great days. Pic­tou County’s im­pact on the his­tory of Nova Sco­tia Con­ser­vatism is a sig­nif­i­cant one: when Hous­ton was voted in as leader Oct. 27, he be­came the ninth per­son in his­tory (out of 31) with strong ties to Pic­tou County who has been elected the party leader in this prov­ince — more than any other in­di­vid­ual county. If for­mer leader Jamie Bail­lie — who, although he was not from Pic­tou County, has fa­mil­ial ties to the area — is in­cluded, that num­ber climbs to 10.

“I didn’t know the num­ber was nine, but I knew (the num­ber) was sig­nif­i­cant,” said for­mer Cen­tral Nova MP Peter MacKay in a tele­phone in­ter­view from his law of­fice in Toronto. He had en­dorsed Hous­ton dur­ing the cam­paign.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, our county has had a strong ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, has been home to many in­dus­tries, and that seems to bring out peo­ple who are com­mu­ni­ty­minded, which can lend it­self to pol­i­tics, I sup­pose.”

He the­o­rized that lead­er­ship, in this con­text, goes back to the “ori­gins of this prov­ince,” when peo­ple had to sur­vive “by their wits and tenac­ity.”

“That has a way of pro­duc­ing a sense of lead­er­ship and per­se­ver­ance,” he said. “It’s bred into the bone of Pic­tou County. Lead­er­ship isn’t for the faint of heart, and I think that speaks well for Pic­tou County.”

Hous­ton hon­oured

For his part, Hous­ton said it’s an hon­our to be fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of past party lead­ers from Pic­tou County.

“It’ a pretty il­lus­tri­ous group for sure,” he said. “It’s a priv­i­lege.”

In a way, he said, it was hum­bling to take the stage as party leader for the first time.

“There’s a lot of weight on the shoul­ders, but the goal is al­ways to do good for the com­mu­nity and good for the peo­ple of Nova Sco­tia.”

While he be­lieves there is a cer­tain de­gree of a legacy in how peo­ple vote, par­tic­u­larly passed down through fam­i­lies, he’s seen a shift where peo­ple are no longer as tied to a party as they were in the past. He be­lieves it’s the val­ues of the pro­vin­cial Tories — such as hard work and ac­count­abil­ity — that have kept peo­ple in Pic­tou County en­gaged.

“It just kind of rep­re­sents the peo­ple of Pic­tou County in many ways,” he says.

Wil­son, who works at Pic­tou Cen­tre MLA Pat Dunn’s con­stituency of­fice, has great faith that Hous­ton will carry on the tra­di­tion of past party lead­ers well.

“He’s a fel­low who han­dles him­self in­cred­i­bly well,” she said.

On the fed­eral stage

While Pic­tou County has been seen some change in guard in re­cent years, it has long been con­sid­ered a safe place for con­ser­va­tives to run not only provin­cially but also fed­er­ally.

Cathy Boswell can re­mem­ber talk­ing with her hus­band about Brian Mul­roney’s co­nun­drum.

It was 1983. Boswell was then liv­ing in Ot­tawa and Mul­roney, newly-elected as fed­eral Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader, was without a seat.

“Alan said to me, ‘The safest Con­ser­va­tive seat in Canada is Cen­tral Nova and I bet Elmer (MacKay) will of­fer his seat to Brian Mul­roney.’”

Sure enough, that night, it be­came of­fi­cial: MacKay gave up his seat, Mul­roney won a by­elec­tion eas­ily and, in 1984, would win the fed­eral elec­tion in a land­slide.

“I’ll never for­get that,” said Boswell, who now lives in Pic­tou Land­ing and has helped run po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns for the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives over the years, the lat­est be­ing Fred Delorey’s un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt in 2015 to win the seat against cur­rent Cen­tral Nova Lib­eral MP Sean Fraser. See more from the lead­er­ship con­ven­tion on Page 3.

Tim Hous­ton, right, is the lat­est in a long line of Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party lead­ers who call Pic­tou County home. The most re­cent in­clude for­mer pre­miers Don­ald Cameron, left, and John Hamm, as well as in­terim leader Karla Mac­Far­lane.

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