Progressive Conservatism in the 21st Century
by Jamie Baillie
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader
When I was growing up in Truro, my 2 heroes were Darryl Sittler and Robert Stanfield. That tells you a lot about my favourite hockey team, and my politics.
In the recent federal election, Nova Scotians elected 11 Members of Parliament to send to Ottawa. As the provincial Official Opposition, our MLAs will work with these MPs, regardless of party, in the best interests of the citizens we serve together.
As Progressive Conservatives, we do have a unique contribution to make. After all, PC governments here enacted the strongest environmental protection laws in Canada. We were among the first to recognize same-sex marriage. We created the first real Department of Health Promotion. We invested in education, including our world-class community college. Many people are surprised to learn that it was Progressive Conservatives who brought universal health care to Nova Scotia.
These are all important gains. They represent an optimistic, positive, progressive conservatism. We continue to believe in them just as much as we believe in a growing economy, lower taxes, and balanced budgets. We also believe in caring for those in society who, through no fault of their own, need support. That includes addressing the crisis in our mental health system.
As we look to the future, here are some ideas that build on the progressive conservative experience in Nova Scotia:
1) A strong commitment to our environment. Nova Scotia’s PCs passed the landmark Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. Now it’s time to champion non-tax, market-based, practical climate change strategies that will cut emissions and protect our natural environment.
2) Education and research as economic drivers. I personally worked with Premier John Hamm to secure stable, multi-year funding to our universities and community college, all tied to achieving real results. These investments pay off in higher workforce participation, population retention, and economic growth, all of which NS badly needs. This view strongly contrasts with NDP and Liberal cuts in this area.
3) Immigration and a growing economy. Nova Scotia’s PCs created the first Immigration Department. We appreciate the diversity and economic boost that immigration brings. We also understand that the best immigration policies are a growing economy, lower taxes, and less red tape.
4) Compassion for people in need. Nova Scotia’s own PC Flora MacDonald opened the country to Vietnamese refugees in 1979. Today, we are proud of the local sponsors who are trying to help Syrian refugees.
5) Our growing creative industries. PC Premier Robert Stanfield saved Neptune Theatre in the 1960s. I am proud to have been a volunteer President of Neptune Theatre in the past. Local artists give us a sense of place in the world, and fuel our growing creative industries. That’s why today’s PC Caucus defends the local film industry against senseless Liberal cuts.
In the days ahead, Nova Scotia PCs will hold a tribute to Peter MacKay. Peter served this province well. The next time you visit the Halifax Central Library, drive on the twinned highway outside Antigonish, go to the Marine Atlantic terminal in North Sydney, watch a Bearcats game at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro, or apply for a job at the Halifax shipyard, you can thank Peter MacKay. He was also part of a national government that increased funding for health and social programs every year, lowered taxes repeatedly, and got us through the worst global recession in 80 years. Nevertheless, voters have passed judgement on the outgoing government.
As the McNeil government here passes the half-way point of its mandate, Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives are working to build a brand-name alternative that is both familiar and updated for the times ahead.