Jamie Baillie announced this week that he was stepping down as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. He has been a fine public servant, and would have made a good Premier. I was honoured to run as a member of the PC team under his leadership in the provincial election earlier this year.
The party will move forward with a leadership campaign, and folks are already speculating about who will run. Sitting MLAs are the obvious and easy choice for the pundits (and there are good people in the expanded caucus that came together under Baillie’s leadership), as are longtime party insiders. Indeed, moving in that direction would be the traditional choice, and maybe this time it will be the right one again.
But we’re in an era where tradition isn’t all that it was once cracked up to be. What we need is not just another leader with plenty of party ties or experience in Province House, but rather someone who can bring a truly fresh perspective and some open-minded innovation and imagination to the political process in this Province, moving us beyond the narrow partisanship and often too-cozy self-interest that has held us back for far too long.
We need transformative leadership, not just transactional leadership. That’s the kind of visionary who will make the Progressive Conservative Party worthy of government as we move further into the 21st century. Maybe that person is a sitting MLA or party insider, but maybe not. The field is wide open.
So, what qualities should this new leader possess? Here are the key points that will determine who I support in the forthcoming leadership campaign:
- A commitment to meaningful community engagement.
- A willingness to transcend partisanship and work with the other parties whenever possible for the common good, on the understanding that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas.
- An understanding of the challenges that face Nova Scotia, and a commitment to the real progressive change that is required to solve them.
- A commitment to decision-making based on facts.
- As the new leader will also spend at least a couple of years as Leader of the Opposition, they must have a commitment to not just criticizing the government when it errs, but also to offering a concrete plan of our own. It’s easy, for example, to say we have a health care crisis in Nova Scotia. It’s much harder to actually put together a plan to address that crisis. Rebuild the economy? Sure, we can all get behind that. But how will you do it? Which sectors, for example, will you prioritize? The new leader must offer more than platitudes and wedge-style politics – he or she must present Nova Scotians with real alternatives.
- A commitment to reforming the civil service, so that it serves as an instrument to implement the change we need, as opposed to an impediment that will frustrate those efforts.
- A commitment to a green future built upon sustainable and environmentally-responsible economic development.
- A commitment to collective bargaining.
- A commitment to engaging a new generation of voters to get involved in creating a better future for Nova Scotia, and a plan for making it happen.
- An understanding of where the last Progressive Conservative campaign failed, but also where it succeeded, and a commitment to correct the errors we made while building on the things we got right.
- A commitment to attracting the best candidates for the next election. We need to convince the best and the brightest Nova Scotians – men and women of achievement, intellect, and drive – to step away from their own path in order to work for the common good. That entails sacrifice, which in turn requires a leader who can inspire them to make that sacrifice, and who will be willing to work with them as the primus inter pares of a truly representative and responsible party, and government.
Most important, I want a candidate who will take to heart the leadership motto that I employ in my work as a filmmaker, and would have used as an MLA if I had been elected:
Listen, Learn, Lead.
These are the qualities that I am looking for because I believe they are absolutely necessary for the good and progressive governance that Nova Scotia so desperately needs.