The Progressive Conservative Leadership Race
Posted July 27, 2018
Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives will choose a new leader in late October. This is the first of three articles on the race and the candidates.
Context matters. In Stephen McNeil, the Tories face the most small-c conservative premier that the province has seen for decades. He has contained payroll costs in the public sector, largely eliminated handouts to corporations, and produced a series of balanced budgets.
The current race is between Tories, but it will be interesting to see whether the party drifts to the left of McNeil’s Liberals as the race evolves.
The format will be like that used by the federal Tories last year and the Ontario Tories this spring, in which equal weight is given to each constituency. If there are fifty members in Digby-Clare, they will have the same influence as five hundred in Halifax Citadel.
The outcome will be determined by preferential ballot in which members are asked to rank the candidates. If a voter’s first choice places last the first time the ballots are counted, his or her vote is transferred to the next highest candidate on his or her list for the subsequent count.
In this format, second and third choices are crucial. Most of the votes will be by mail, so the computer will know how things are turning out before the results of the first round are announced.
If they follow the previous examples, the party officials will drag out the reveal, ballot by ballot.
This article looks at Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin. The other candidates will be featured in future pieces.
Elizabeth was first elected in 2017 as Member of the Legislative Assembly for Cumberland North. She is a registered nurse and the owner/operator of four small businesses.
She and her husband Dr. Murray McCrossin have four children, the youngest of whom will begin university this fall.
Her campaign co-chairs are former party president Rob Batherson, and former MP and future candidate Scott Armstrong. At time of writing, none of the other MLA’s have endorsed her, although she does have support from a diverse group of former MLAs and cabinet ministers.
Given her background, and experience as the party’s health critic, she is easily the most knowledgeable candidate on the health file. She does not favour radical change in the NSHA, arguing that ushering in a new regime causes uncertainty and paralysis while things are being sorted out at the top.
Her priorities include:
- Greatly enhancing the voices of health care practitioners—both in the governance of the Nova Scotia Health Authority and in local area decision making.
- Physician compensation, particularly for family physicians, needs to be brought up to competitive levels. Rural based specialists should be paid the same as those in Halifax.
- A new Continuing Care Strategy to increase the number of long-term care beds to match the demand from the growing seniors’ population.
Her other major policy platform is the “Big Tax Break”. It would include:
- Increasing the basic personal allowance to $15,000 a year for Nova Scotians earning $75,000 and under, and $10,000 a year for others.
- Ending bracket creep by fully indexing personal income tax brackets.
- Ending personal income taxes on anyone earning less than $20,000 a year.
- Reducing corporate taxes from 16% to 12%.
- Reducing the small business tax rate from 3% to 0%.
Her announcement includes a commendably detailed estimation of the cost of these proposals, coming to a total of $570 million-though she argues that it could be partially offset by better economic growth.
She is committed to balancing the budget, but finding that much in savings is not going to be easy. She intends none of it to come out of health care spending. Together with debt servicing, that amounts to just under half the budget.
To achieve $570 million in savings from the rest of the budget would require a 10% reduction in other departments. The biggest remaining items are education, community services (most of which is payments to disadvantaged individuals), and transportation and infrastructure renewal. This isn’t going to work.
She wants to dramatically improve how government deals with entrepreneurs trying to expand their businesses, and to greatly expand consumption of locally produced food.
The ideas advocated by other candidates will be described in future articles. Party members attending debates and other events should be as interested in how candidates express themselves as in the ideas themselves.
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