Ac­tion needed to unify Tories in wake of lead­er­ship race

Truro Daily News - - OPINION - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert, a jour­nal­ist and writer for longer than he cares to ad­mit, con­sulted or worked for ve Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ments. He now keeps a close and crit­i­cal eye on pro­vin­cial and re­gional pow­ers.

Tim Hous­ton, the shiny new leader of Nova Sco­tia Con­ser­va­tives said all the right things about party unity and mem­bers com­ing to­gether to de­feat the Lib­eral pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, but more than a few Tories who backed other lead­er­ship con­tenders say his ac­tions in the com­ing weeks will speak louder than any words.

When the votes were counted Satur­day, Hous­ton was tan­ta­liz­ingly close, but didn’t post the num­ber needed for a rst-bal­lot win. As it turned out, he was close enough.

In one of a the few dra­matic mo­ments at the Tory lead­er­ship con­ven­tion, Ce­cil Clarke, the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity ( CBRM) mayor, who fin­ished sec­ond on the first bal­lot, walked across the Hal­i­fax Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre, threw his sup­port be­hind Hous­ton, and it was over.

The other can­di­dates – Julie Chais­son, El­iz­a­beth SmithMc­crossin and John Lohr – fol­lowed and no sec­ond bal­lot was re­quired.

Clarke was the only can­di­date with any hope of catch­ing Hous­ton af­ter the rst bal­lot, but was more than 1,000 points back, so it was the slimmest of hopes.

He said the in­ter­ests of the party were best served by com­ing to­gether at that point, rather than push­ing the race to an­other bal­lot.

Hous­ton, who rep­re­sents Pic­tou East in the leg­is­la­ture, ran a for­mi­da­ble cam­paign, brought thou­sands of new mem­bers into the party, and made sure those mem­bers voted.

He was the per­ceived front run­ner from the cam­paign’s out­set more than nine months ago and that made him the tar­get of crit­i­cism from ri­val camps.

The crit­i­cism in­ten­si­fied when Hous­ton’s cam­paign blun­dered into a series of rules in­frac­tions, and some of his sup­port­ers were said to be overly ag­gres­sive or openly hos­tile to sup­port­ers of other can­di­dates.

In Cape Bre­ton, Tory MLAS Ed­die Or­rell and Al­fie Macleod, who sup­ported Clarke, came un­der vo­cif­er­ous at­tack on so­cial me­dia from pro-hous­ton-an­tiClarke el­e­ments in CBRM, who threat­ened to mount chal­lenges against Or­rell and Macleod from within the party.

It’s up to Hous­ton now to calm those wa­ters and heal other wounds in­flicted dur­ing the lead­er­ship con­test.

While he rec­og­nizes that im­per­a­tive, Hous­ton tends to gloss over the hurt felt in other camps, in­sist­ing there is more that unites the party than di­vides it and, with the cam­paign over, he seems to be­lieve the party will mend al­most or­gan­i­cally.

Oth­ers are cer­tain it won’t and are look­ing to Hous­ton for ac­tion to bridge the di­vi­sions.

His rst chance will come soon enough, when he de­cides how to al­lo­cate critic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, com­mit­tee as­sign­ments and a num­ber of other key roles in the 17-mem­ber Tory cau­cus in the leg­is­la­ture.

ose de­ci­sions re­quire a ne bal­ance.

Half of the cau­cus sup­ported Hous­ton’s lead­er­ship bid and some of those MLAS will ex­pect to land in their job of choice as a re­ward.

But those as­sign­ments also pro­vide Hous­ton with the chance to take tan­gi­ble ac­tion to unify the party.

What­ever roles he chooses for John Lohr (Pc-kings North) and El­iz­a­beth Smith-mc­crossin (PCCum­ber­land North), as well as for MLAS who sup­ported Clarke, will be in­ter­preted by party mem­bers.

Prom­i­nent roles for his lead­er­ship ri­vals will let mem­bers know there is no in­ner and other team of Tories.

But, if Hous­ton is per­ceived to favour his back­ers to the ex­clu­sion of his ri­vals, party mem­bers will take note and draw a di er­ent con­clu­sion.

e lead­er­ship was de­cided by a sys­tem that al­lo­cated 100 points to each of the prov­ince’s 51 pro­vin­cial rid­ings, and points were distributed to can­di­dates in pro­por­tion to the votes they re­ceived in each rid­ing.

Hous­ton gar­nered 2,496 points on the rst bal­lot, just 55 shy of the 2,551 needed to win out­right. Tories cast 8,943 valid bal­lots to pick a new leader, and the party planned to re­lease the vote break­down as early as this week.

Smart and en­er­getic, Hous­ton has been an e ec­tive critic of the gov­ern­ment and will gain pro le as Leader of the Op­po­si­tion when the House re­con­venes in late win­ter or spring of 2019.

His broad mes­sage to Nova Sco­tians is that the prov­ince holds great prom­ise but is be­ing held back by ine ec­tive gov­ern­ment.

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