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Money matters matter more
David Swick
11/02/2022
Source :  Halifax Daily News

Peter MacKay is parliamentary House Leader, the son of a former cabinet minister, and supported by the lion’s share of Nova Scotia’s 31 Tory MLAs. But MacKay wasn’t the candidate who wowed the weekend convention.

Nova Scotia’s other candidate, Scott Brison, received the biggest cheers during the leadership debate. Brison’s ideas appeared to resonate most with the crowd. And Brison’s applause grew louder and louder as the night wore on.

Former provincial party president Irene Swindells gave Brison a big hug afterwards. The fact most Nova Scotia MLAs support MacKay, she says, means nothing.

“I was chair of the Hamm leadership campaign when he had only one MLA,” Swindells said. “It makes no difference.

“And I don’t decide who to support out of friendship. I decide based on who is good for the party. Scott is just what we need. He’s like Joe Clark – only charming.”

Swindells’s Clark comparison was the only one I heard in several hours of carousing. More often, Brison was compared to Mike Harris.

“He reminds me of Mike Harris in ’95,” says Matthew Macdonald, an observer from the University of Toronto. “He is not afraid to take stands — look at him wanting to get rid of ACOA.”

Brison wants to scrap ACOA, a $447 million funding agency, and at the same time eliminate all $380 million in federal corporate taxes in Atlantic Canada. Getting out of the way of business, Brison says, is our best bet for economic prosperity.

It’s a simple solution — the kind of simple solution that helped the Harris Conservatives win twice in Ontario. Thousands of Ontarians belong to the provincial Conservative party, but federally support the Canadian Alliance. Brison, Macdonald said, is attractive to those people.

“Scott Brison and the Canadian Alliance believe that tax cuts spur economic growth. Scott is not afraid of being conservative.”

Brison’s true-blue conservatism, intelligence, and charm are paying early campaign dividends. On the Website ToryDraft.com, Brison is in second place, drawing 26 per cent, eight points behind Jim Prentice’s 34 per cent, but eight ahead of Mac-Kay’s 18 per cent.

OK, but what about the gay question? This is how much I heard delegates talking about Brison’s sexual orientation: zero. Whenever I asked, “Will being gay hurt his chances?” people looked at me like I smelled bad.

But it was only 17 years ago that Buchanan attorney general Ron Giffin declared he would rather this province pull out of the Charter of Rights than allow gays to join the police force. Has the Conservative party changed so much?

“Let me give you a perspective from redneck Alberta,” Bob Young says. He’s president of the Alberta Tory constituency presidents, and co-chairman of the Brison campaign there. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not an issue. I’ve been amazed how little it matters.

“People want to know what his policies are. He speaks of conservative fiscal values, and that’s something Alberta can relate to ... That other stuff, we’ve moved beyond it.”

By accepting that sexual orientation does not define character, today’s Tories are putting something progressive in Progressive Conservative.

“I was talking to one old lady, a lifelong Conservative,” says Kim Link-letter, another Albertan and co-chair of the Brison national campaign.

“I asked her if it mattered. She said, ‘Well, dear, as long as he’s in a steady relationship and not out chasing girls, it’s fine with me.’”

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