Delivered by Dr. John Hamm on February 9th, 2018 at the 2018 Annual General Meeting

February 12, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Thank you and congratulations to Tara Miller, Jim David and the organizing team for once again pulling everything together. This is old hat for Jim – but I am sure it never gets any easier. Kudos to all involved.

Hello everyone. It’s great to be back for our Annual meeting…..our yearly opportunity to network with fellow Progressive conservatives, to discuss important public policy, to hold the Party’s Caucus and Executive to account. Our AGM’s are the best in the country and we’re doing it again.

It’s encouraging to look out into the hall and see so many familiar faces—so many loyal friends and party volunteers who worked so hard to give me the opportunity to serve our party as Leader…and our province as Premier…..Once again thank you for that great honour.

Political parties play a huge role in our democratic system. Thank you all for being here and contributing to our democratic process.

I am particularly pleased to see so many new faces—a clear sign that our party…it’s values…it’s policies and connecting with more and more Nova Scotians….building on the gains witnessed during the last two elections (including a breakthrough in Metro)….We are in a wonderful position to once again form a government.

(SINCE) this is the last time I will address such a large gathering of Progressive Conservatives before we elect our new leader, I’m going to take advantage of my time and speak to you about the opportunities and challenges presented by our leadership race.

The leadership candidates are bringing new members to our Party—Nova Scotians who perhaps for the first time in their lives are becoming actively engaged in the political process. And it’s a wonderful thing especially when it comes to younger members. Our collective challenge – as long time party members, as caucus members, as members of the Party Executive is to make
SURE we keep new members active and engaged – Their perspectives must be included.

Emotions run high during leadership contests – but in the end there can only be one leader. It’s natural that many will be disappointed when their candidates doesn’t win. I urge you to set aside your disappointment and give our new leader a chance to earn your approval – your respect – There is no one in the race who cannot be a great leader – I will be pleased to serve whichever of the candidates we choose – We are fortunate to have such great candidates.

Let us remember why we are here tonight.
We’re here because we share beliefs and values.

The belief in individual responsibility and the rule of law.
The belief in a strong economy supported by small business and a government that lives within it’s means.

The belief in the fair allocation of resources across the province –the equal rights of all individuals and the importance of citizen engagement in the development of public policy.

The belief in individual achievement and personal responsibility.

We believe in caring for those in society who, through no fault of their own, need support.

We understand that government cannot be all things to all people/but all people deserve a government that is compassionate, honest, principled, open to new ideas…..a government that is prepared to make the hard choices for the long term public good—putting the public interest ahead of it’s own—and is not beholden to special interest groups that are at odds with the public good..

Each of the four candidates who have made the decision to offer bring their own unique experiences and strengths to the race—all sharing the values, and beliefs that have been our guiding principles for decades….These guiding principles have brought us all here tonight.

Please remember this in the event your favored candidate does not come out on top—and you are disappointed,—/////——–in this race—there is no wrong choice—in the next few months we must decide the best choice.

Which brings me to the recent events that have left so many of us disappointed and saddened. I know of this event only what I have learned from the media.

Jamie Baillie is a friend of mine. Like many of you I was shocked and saddened to read media reports of what transpired and I am heart sick for both the victim and Jamie’s family. I also appreciate how difficult this has been for our President Tara Miller, interim leader Karla MacFarlane and our caucus…Immediate action was taken putting the interest of the victim ahead of personal friendship and party loyalty. By establishing a process that the victim and counsel and Jamie agreed was fair—the hard decisions were made for the right reasons…………..Tara and Karla have served us well.

Protecting the victim’s identity is of paramount importance.

Ladies and Gentleman—we all know—smart people who have made stupid decisions and bad choices and done wrong things. No one should ever condone such behavior, but neither should we erase or forget all they have accomplished. Whatever else you may think, Jamie Baillie has worked hard for the people of Cumberland South—held the government to account—has rebuilt our party-increasing the seat count and the popular vote.

As we have learned Jamie participated fully in the investigation—then accepted the result of the investigation and did the right thing.

Politics is unforgiving but politicians and friends must have compassion.

Let me make a few more remarks before I conclude.

We are positioned to govern. Our caucus is strong—composed of members with experience in municipal and provincial governments, as well as new comers with new ideas and fresh perspectives. Men and women with diverse backgrounds, representing Nova Scotians from Cape Breton to the French Shore and all points in between. Men and women who are proud to serve—The next battle is to win the hearts and minds and trust of Nova Scotians not just in the Legislature but in local fire halls, Legions, coffee shops and on the door steps. We must all get behind caucus, our new leader and our local candidate by reaching out to our friends and neighbors and co-workers. They will come to believe in us as we believe in ourselves.

No one knows any better than I do that getting elected needs the effort and support of a lot of good people.

At the outset, I mentioned the many new faces in the room tonight—I urge you to stay engaged—including the politically hesitant-temporary cardholders who signed up to support a specific leadership candidate—good government in Nova Scotia needs strong political parties.

Nova Scotians looking for an alternative will be tuning in and watching us closely this weekend through to the time we choose a new leader. Let’s demonstrate that we are an inclusive party that invites rigorous but civil debate. That we are open to new ideas and that our focus is squarely on the well being and future prosperity of our province—that we put province ahead of party.

Good opposition makes for good government—Let us support our caucus in supporting government when government gets things right—and when our caucus forms government let not government live in a bubble—discounting good ideas or new approaches only because they came from opposition.

Governing is never easy—but is more difficult and less effective when confrontation rather than cooperation is the order of the day. One up man ship—credit—blame—often gets in the way of sound decision making.

Over the next few months I will listen to our leadership candidates for new ideas—for specific answers—not platitudes—for inspiration—answers addressing lack of primary care-childhood poverty—youth unemployment and outmigration—improving school outcomes.

Answers to declining voter turnout—-gaps in the availability of Early Learning programs and mental health services—balancing the approach to metro and rural NS.

The tone and substance of the race will be determined by our leadership candidates—but will be influenced by all who support them.

You will be choosing a leader from four experienced and thoughtful candidates—all sharing our values as NS Progressive Conservatives—Looking to lead the Party of Charles Tupper and Robert Stanfield.

The party of free public education—the modern community college system—hospital insurance—medicare—the party that enacted French Language Rights—established a framework for negotiations with First Nations—established the Human Rights Commission—equal pay for equal work legislation—the Senior’s Pharmacare Program.

This is the Party that stood up to Ottawa securing the Offshore Accord and The Crown Share Agreement—using the funds to pay down the debt.

This is the Party of lower taxes—sound accounting principles—right sized government and a balance of environment and job creation as proposed in the Ivany Report.

Socially, economically and fiscally this party answers the call to improve the lives of Nova Scotians and their families.

We are NS Progressive Conservatives and we are all in this together.

This week let’s stay positive and focused—let’s stay strong and united—so that together we can once again earn the trust and confidence of our fellow Nova Scotians.

Thank you.