The Progressive Conservative Association of Nova Scotia is one of the province’s oldest political parties. The province’s first conservative leader, James W. Johnston, was Government Leader until the enactment of responsible government in 1848. He later served as Premier of the colony. His successor as Premier, Sir Charles Tupper, brought Nova Scotia into Confederation in 1867 and later served as the sixth Prime Minister of Canada. Although Confederation resulted in some political realignment, the pre-Confederation party system remained largely intact.
Conservative governments held office several times from Confederation to the end of World War II. In 1864, they passed the Free School Act in 1864. At that time, a quarter of the province was illiterate and almost two-thirds of children received no formal education at all. During this time, Conservatives reformed the province’s municipal system, abolished the Legislative Council – the provincial equivalent of the federal Senate, began one of the first large revisions of electoral lists and boundaries, established the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, ended violent labour strife in Cape Breton during the 1920’s and fought for a national policy on coal and steel.
In the post-war years, under the leadership of Robert Stanfield, the Progressive Conservative Party was modernized and became a new political force in the province. From the time Stanfield became Premier in 1956, the Progressive Conservative Party has formed government for twice as many years as their opponents.
Stanfield became the first Conservative Premier to win four successive majority governments. He modernized the road system, brought in the first form of Medicare, established the first economic development agency, established the Voluntary Economic Planning Board and helped to start the new Neptune Theatre. Stanfield’s government invested heavily in education at all levels including the creation of vocational schools (the predecessor of the Nova Scotia Community Colleges) and provided the first consistent funding to universities. Stanfield was chosen as federal PC leader in 1967 and is often described as “the best Prime Minister Canada never had”. He was chosen by Nova Scotia newspapers as “Nova Scotian of the Century” in 2000.
After Stanfield’s departure, George (G.I.) Smith continued Stanfied’s work as premier, addressing issues in the coal and steel industry and lowered the voting age to 19.
John Buchanan became the next Progressive Conservative Premier. His tenure spanned three decades from the 1970s to the 1990s, making Buchanan the second Progressive Conservative Premier to win four majority governments. Buchanan’s government addressed energy issues and helped advance the process of gas exploration leading to the Sable Island project. His government first succeeded in convincing federal government to give Nova Scotia control over offshore resources such as gas and oil, resulting in future revenue for the province through the Crown Share. His government invested heavily in infrastructure such as education, health and roads. It also established the Small Claims Court, grew the province’s tourism industry and created French language education in regions where population warranted separate Acadian School Boards.
Roger Bacon served as an interim leader, leading to the premiership of Donald Cameron. During his term, Cameron reformed government finance practices, promoted anti-discrimination measures, introduced new government accountability measures and established the first non-partisan electoral boundaries revision commission in 1992.
Dr. John Hamm was persuaded to run for office by Cameron in 1993, and later took office as Premier in 1999. Hamm secured the province’s offshore resource rights with the Atlantic Accord, providing a share of offshore oil and gas revenue to the province. In the first initiative of its kind in the country his government stabilized healthcare financing through multi-year funding. The Hamm government also passed tough lobbyist registration legislation, introduced smoking cessation initiatives, provided new funding for community college modernization and achieved historically high economic growth and employment numbers. In 2002, his government balanced the province’s budget for the first time in many years.
Premier Rodney MacDonald’s government was first formed in 2006 and continued John Hamm’s work to provide balanced budgets. Through strategic investments in rural broadband infrastructure, MacDonald continued to expand high-speed internet access throughout the province. Premier MacDonald’s government moved to help stabilize energy costs, grow the economy and attract new investment to the province. His government invested to help those in need by creating the Family Pharmacare program and significant expansion of long-term care facilities to address growing demand.
Historic new investments in infrastructure and roads led to unprecedented highway expansion and new support for community centres, local fire departments and investments in recreation infrastrucutre. One of Mr. MacDonald’s most significant accomplishments was resolving the decades old Crown Share dispute with Ottawa resulting in a transfer of $870 Million to Nova Scotia from the federal government.