Tories look to cut a path to vic­tory

Truro Daily News - - OPINION - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert grew up in Truro and is a Nova Sco­tian jour­nal­ist, writer and for­mer po­lit­i­cal and com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant to gov­ern­ments of all stripes.

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.

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