Tim Houston new leader of PC Party

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HALIFAX — Pictou East MLA Tim Houston has a new job.

He was elected leader of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives at a leadership convention Saturday at the Halifax Exhibition Centre after one ballot.

Houston was perceived as the front-runner in the election and following the first ballot results, the remaining four candidates — including closest challenger Cecil Clarke — threw their support to Houston and withdrew from the next ballot. Also running were Julie Chaisson, John Lohr and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.

Taking the stage in victory Houston promised the 500 or so Party members who attended the gathering, “Change is coming.”

Immediately after winning the election, Houston told media he was “very proud” and “very grateful” that Clarke conceded and it was a “high moment” for the Party. Houston says he is 100 per cent confident that he will be leading a unified party. “I’m really excited about that.”

Job one on Monday, Houston said, “is continuing on this view of unification. We have to make sure this party has a strong foundation to go forward.”

It had been a long campaign for Houston who was the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring. Of the victory Houston said, “We’ll enjoy it for today and we’ll get to work tomorrow.”

During the leadership race, membership in the PC Party hit a high of almost 12,000 – the largest annual increase in the party’s history.

Houston’s victory is hailed as great news for the future of Nova Scotians by a number of Pictou County supporters.

Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray commented on Saturday: “Tim does politics differently. He doesn’t just listen to advisors and make decisions. He goes to the frontlines and talks to the people there, to find solutions. His speeches aren’t filled with partisan rhetoric, they focus on significant policy changes to address the most pressing issues in our province. A Progressive Conservative government is the best option for Pictou County and all of rural Nova Scotia. Tim is the electable leader that can make it happen.”

Equally enthusiastic about Houston’s win was Sherry Blinkhorn, a long-time Houston supporter, who also attended the leadership convention.

“I’ve never been a card carrying member of any political party, and I am now and it’s because of Tim Houston. I was impressed by Tim the first time I ever heard a radio interview and I thought he was really connecting with people. I think he’s our only hope for health care and education.”

Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan and his wife Shawn were also happy with the outcome and what it means for the PC Party.

“The unification process that took place this afternoon is fabulous for the party and moving forward we’re well positioned to take on Stephen McNeil in the next election and to be the next government of Nova Scotia,” said Jim.

Shawn agreed. “Tim’s a really strong leader and I think he demonstrated that throughout the whole process. And I think he’s definitely more than capable of taking on the McNeil Liberals. So I think we’re in a good position.”

Premier Stephen McNeil offered congratulations to Houston. “I respect the commitment of Mr. Houston for taking on that challenge. It carries a significant responsibility to the people of Nova Scotia.”

He also recognized Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane’s time as interim leader. “Ms. MacFarlane ensured that the official Opposition had a strong voice in the House of Assembly to hold the government to account.”

Pictou East MLA Tim Houston takes the stage after being elected Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia on Saturday. (Jardine photo)