Chaisson Has No Experience as a Politician, Clarke Has Lots

Cecil Clarke’s entire resume is about his experience as a politician, while Julie Chaisson has none, though she has tried.

Chaisson has been married for thirty years and has three children. The family has been actively supporting her efforts, including website design and lots of driving.

She lacks legislative experience, having come third in Chester-St. Margarets in the 2017 election. As a result, she does not have the connections with caucus members and party activists that the other candidates enjoy.

She says her strategy from the outset was to not pursue endorsements, but has chosen instead to change the topic. She “endorses” Nova Scotians that she admires.

She says she has enjoyed the campaign and has felt welcome wherever she has travelled. It is nevertheless difficult for her to be confident about her level of support.

She would reduce the HST by 2% at a cost to the treasury of $370 million. To pay for it, she talks about opportunities for cost saving by digitizing more tasks without explaining how that might work.

She notes that a quarter of civil servants will be eligible to retire by 2020 and that the resulting turnover affords an opportunity to restructure government departments without expensive and disruptive severances. Perhaps so, but she has not described the restructuring she would like to see.

She joins the chorus criticizing the way the Liberals communicated the Cape Breton hospital changes, but would not propose to undo them if elected in 2021.

She is highly critical of how the Nova Scotia Health Authority is organized. It certainly could be much less complex. She feels that her 30 years of experience as a leader in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors enables her to visualize changes that would be beyond the understanding of those whose lives are steeped in government and politics.

Chaisson acknowledges the party’s weakness in Halifax. She believes that a priority would be to rebuild the constituency associations, but has not yet offered policy prescriptions focused on urban voters.

Clarke has been an MLA, a cabinet minister, Speaker of the House, and, since 2012, Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

CBRM has had a long period of population decline since the closing of the steel mill and all but one of the coal mines. That decline has slowed since Clarke became Mayor, but they are still losing 600 people per year on a base of 94,000.

If he becomes leader he would create a grass roots consultation on policy to hear from all party members and to benefit from the best ideas of the other candidates. It would be concluded by the time of the party’s annual meeting in February.

This is a useful team-building idea, although there is a risk that the members will be too tired from the leadership campaign to put much energy into it.

Cecil talks around issues at length. He never uses thirty words when three hundred will do.

Like other candidates, he is opposed to a carbon tax, but has not proposed any alternative strategy for further reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A surprising amount of his attention is devoted to criticizing the Trudeau government–safe territory for a Tory crowd, but what is the relevance to a provincial leadership contest?

He would reduce provincial taxes to the national average, but has not done an estimate of what it would cost.

My rough calculation has it even more expensive than Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin’s “Big Tax Break.” Although Clarke says he would do it over ten years, he faces the same dilemma of how to make it work while balancing the budget.

He believes an important source of revenue growth would result from greater support for resource industries, including fracking for shale gas. He notes that the Donkin mine is an uncommon example of a community supporting a coal mining initiative.

He talks around the Northern Pulp dilemma without reaching a discernable conclusion. He would like to see an expert panel appointed, but won’t say if he would delay the 2020 completion date to allow the panel’s ideas to be implemented.

He has a detailed list of initiatives to improve the doctor recruiting initiative. He wants to restore regional health boards and increase local decision making, but has not described an overarching governance model.

He says that “The health care system needs to become more efficient and respectful of taxpayers, but we can never allow it to come at the expense of patient care,” and to make that happen he will “…bring forward a plan for our next government to go back to the drawing board immediately.” This is a plan to have a plan.

Chaisson has been trying to get new ideas into play, but her low profile makes it hard for those ideas to get traction. Clarke’s effort includes some lightly detailed ideas also found in other campaigns, but seems mostly to be focused on his track record and endorsements.


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