Houston Wins N.S. Tory Leadership After Main Challenger Drops Out

HALIFAX Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives have a new leader after the second place challenger in the five-way race dramatically dropped off the ballot Saturday at the partys convention in Halifax.Tim Houston watched as Cecil Clarke strode across the floor with a train of his supporters, minutes after the results of the first ballot left the partys finance critic just 53 points shy of the 2,550 points needed to win under the conventions weighted voting system.Clarke, who won 1,385 points on the first ballot, told Houston he conceded early because he wanted to ensure party unity coming out of the convention.

A beaming Houston said he was grateful for Clarkes magnanimous move, which was later seconded by the remaining candidates in the race when they also dropped off the ballot.Im very proud that he (Clarke) did it, he said. This is a high moment.

Its a high moment for the party and Im really grateful that this happened.As a result, Houston said he was 100% convinced that he would be leading a united party.For his part, Clarke, the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and a former Tory cabinet minister, said he knew what he needed to do after the first ballot.

I believe in bringing this party together and its about the next election, Clarke said to reporters.The party is bigger than any one person and its bigger than me and I am happy to support our new leader Tim Houston.Houston, 48, a chartered accountant, positioned himself during the nearly year-long campaign as the best candidate to take on the governing Liberals in the next election, expected sometime in 2021.

Houston was first elected to the provincial legislature are the MLA for Pictou East in 2013 and he was re-elected in 2017. The Pictou County resident is married and has two children.The perceived front-runner was the first into the race, jumping in soon after former leader Jamie Baillie announced that he was stepping down last November.

Baillie later resigned in January amid unspecified allegations of inappropriate behaviour.As a result of his aggressive style and status, Houston often became the target of his opponents through a series of six debates held across the province.On Saturday, Houston said he was sure there wouldnt be any acrimony in the future.

Candidates and fellow caucus members John Lohr and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin had been particularly critical. During the campaign they pledged second-choice support to each other and were clear that their supporters should follow their lead.I think thats over now, Houston said.

The race is over and we are caucus colleagues . . .

and we will just get to work and get going on the things that matter to Nova Scotians.Lohr placed a distant third in first ballot voting with 692 points, followed by Smith-McCrossin with 384 points, while candidate Julie Chaisson finished last with 140 points and was automatically dropped.A total of 8,947 votes were cast with 208 recorded as spoiled.

Party officials said more than 76 per cent of votes cast on the first ballot were done so in advanced voting.The contest was conducted through a combination of ranked ballots and weighted ridings. Each of the provinces 51 constituencies counted for 100 points, allocated according to the proportion of votes each candidate received from that riding.

Nicole LaFosse, Houstons director of communications, said the key to his victory was a strong ground game in the drive to sign up new party memberships, particularly in the metro Halifax area.There were 22 constituencies in the metro area and we knew that had to be a focus, said LaFosse. We had a range and we fell within that range on the first ballot for sure.

Four of the five candidates in the race ran what could be described as middle-of-the-road campaigns, the lone exception being Lohr who positioned himself as an unabashed Conservative.Houston said it would be his goal to lead a big tent party as the Tories, who are currently the official Opposition, target winning government in the next election.Theres room for every Nova Scotian in this process and in this party, he said.

We listen to all ideas and it doesnt mean that we agree with all ideas, but it means that we listen enough to assess them and move forward.

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Saxton, 52, served as parliamentary secretary to the ministers of the Treasury Board and finance while representing North Vancouver. Like almost all B.C. urban Tory MPs, he lost his ridingin 2015 in a province where the party took only 10 of 42 seats, far below the results in 2011, when the party dominated by taking 21 of 36 ridings. He is the son of Andrew Saxton Sr., who emigrated to Canada from post-war Hungary in 1947 and would eventually become a founding executive in such companies as Laurentide Financial Corporation, King George Financial Corporation, Grouse Mountain Resources, the B.C. Television Broadcasting System and the Granville Island Hotel and Marina Ltd. The second expected candidate who has scheduled a news conference Tuesday is Vancouver businessman Rick Peterson. A fluently bilingual Alberta native, Peterson ran unsuccessfully for the B.C. Conservative Party leadership in 2014, and in the past has been critical of former federal leader Stephen Harpers lack of visibility in Vancouver and other big cities. Saxton and Peterson will enter a race that appears wide open after the partys most visible ministers in the Harper era, like Jason Kenney of Alberta, Peter MacKay of Nova Scotia and James Moore of B.C., declined the opportunity to take on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election, setfor 2019. Declared candidates include MPs Maxime Bernier of Quebec, Michael Chong, Erin OToole, Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch of Ontario, Andrew Scheer and Brad Trost of Saskatchewan, and Deepak Obhrai of Alberta. Former minister Lisa Raitt, an Ontario MP who now services as the Official Opposition finance critic, is among those also expected to declare their intentions soon. Saxton portrays himself as a functional though not fluent French-speaker, and as a social moderate and fiscal conservative who understands the sentiments of Canadians in the multicultural big cities. He cited the focus on hot-button issues like the right of Muslim women to wear a face-covering niqab at citizenship ceremonies as one of the partys errors inthe 2015 campaign. It was an issue that was important to some people in some parts of country, but not all people in all parts of the country. It definitely became a distraction. While Saxtonsaid he will outline his major policy planks during the leadership campaign, he said the focus on winning back cities will includehelping entrepreneurs thrive and aiding Canadians on bread-and-butter economic issues. The cost of living, housing, and job opportunities are all very important issues that need to be addressed. 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2021 05 14
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