Tories look to cut a path to victory
Good relationships make for good politics, as John Lohr and Elizabeth Smith- Mccrossin showed us last week.
e two Nova Scotia Conservative leadership hopefuls made a mutual aid pact, each naming the other as their second choice for party leader and sending strong signals to their supporters that they’d like them to consider making the same choice.
In ideological terms, Cumberland North’s Smith-mccrossin and her Kings North caucus colleague Lohr are not natural allies. However, both seek to lead a provincial party that spans a broad band of the political spectrum, from centre-leaning-left to hard right.
Whoever leads the party that still calls itself Progressive Conservative will need to comfortably accommodate people and views from across that spectrum, because without a solidly united party, the next leader’s political destiny begins and ends on the opposition benches in the legislature.
is deal wasn’t brokered in the name of Tory unity, but it underscores that imperative as the battle that cut deep ssures in the party nears its end.
Rather, the deal is designed to give one of the two candidates a path – albeit a narrow one – to victory. Which one depends on the outcome of the rst ballot.
Lohr and Smith-mccrossin are believed to be vying for third place in the race, behind presumed front-runner Tim Houston (Pictou Centre) and Cape Breton Regional Mayor Cecil Clarke, who is either a close or distant second, depending on who you ask.
Last week more than 11,000 party members across Nova Scotia received their preferential ballots in the mail. Members can rank their leadership choices from rst to fth (last) and mail them back to the party, or they can attend a traditional leadership convention at the Halifax Exhibition Centre, Oct. 26-27, and vote on each ballot.
In the days of delegated leadership conventions, the candidate who nished last on each ballot was eliminated and would then move – physically and with some fanfare – to the contender he or she was backing to win. Whether the defeated candidate’s delegates followed was a drama not resolved until the results of the next ballot were announced.
The declarations of mutual second-place support between Lohr and Smith-mccrossin are imbued with the same unresolved drama.
e deal is predicated on the notion that their combined strength is enough to move one of them into at least second place, and a position to win the leadership on a subsequent ballot. To repeat, it’s a narrow path, but a path nonetheless. Julie Chaisson, who ran unsuccessfully for the Tories in Chester St. Margaret’s last year, is considered to be running last, but she has performed admirably and whatever support she garnered could be vital to the eventual winner.
Smith-mccrossin is rmly ensconced in the progressive wing of the party, while Lohr has run as the true conservative in the eld, although some of his interventions in the legislature and his record of involvement in his community and well beyond, betray a sociallyprogressive soul.
Some Tories have taken to calling Houston and Clarke the “big two” in the race and note that neither of them has made much of an e ort – at least publicly – to reconcile the rifts created by an acrimonious and often bitter campaign.
Granted, a good deal of the bad blood runs between those two camps, although as the pacesetter, Houston has taken ack from all sides, except Chaisson who remained judiciously above the fray.
e record of Houston directly criticizing his opponents is thin, but he has disparaged some events in – and actions of – the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, and that struck a nerve with Clarke who has been mayor of the place since 2012.
Clarke drew a bead on Houston almost from the day the mayor entered the race and hasn’t let up.
A Clarke campaign email last week praised or endorsed policy ideas from Chaisson, Lohr and Smith-mccrossin, but lowered the boom on Houston for advocating “exactly the wrong approach.”
“When Progressive Conservatives try to act like the NDP to win or retain power, it always ends badly,” the Clarke email states, in reference to what it claimed are Houston’s big government ideas.
If Houston or Clarke emerges as leader Oct. 27, he will have some serious work ahead to bring the party together. Smith-mccrossin and Lohr have already taken tentative steps in that direction.