FALL RIVER: Cecil Clarke believes his leadership qualities makes him ready to lead the Nova Scotia PC Party from day one.
Clarke is one of the five candidates vying to take on the role of leading the party into the next election looking to unseat Stephen McNeil and his Liberal government from the power of running the province.
The Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) was in Fall River recently for a gathering with locals and sat down for a chat with The Laker.
“I believe my life and career experiences have prepared me and provided me a basis to be the next leader of our party,” said Clarke. “I’m ready to lead on day one. I know what is required in the system of governing, how to operate a government, and how to run a government, doing it within a balanced budget environment.
“Being ready to lead means having the experience and know how to get the job done.”
Clarke is up against Tim Houston; Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin; John Lohr; and Julie Chaisson. The new leader will be voted on at the party’s convention in late on Oct. 27, 2018.
He said he would also do it in a respectful way, working with organized labour and deal with the priorities of Nova Scotians daily.
“I know how to do it from a grassroots up approach,” he said.
Clarke talked about issues that have besieged McNeil and his government as of lately as the new, early Spring sitting of the Legislature began on Feb. 27, and about a local sticking point for some residents in Miller Lake West, although he didn’t really give a direct answer.
“We have some very serious issues,” he said. “I don’t agree with the current government and how they have handled major issues and a lot of their policies.”
He knows how everyday provincial decisions affect everyday Nova Scotians, and the impact they have at the neighbourhood and community level.
“What I know is that there’s a true disconnect right now,” said Clarke, who was a former Minister in Province House from 2001-2011.”I’m a red Tory as they say. I believe in fiscal Conservatism, but we have a lot of human need in the province that can’t be ignored.”
Clarke was asked if he was Premier how would he approach the ongoing strife between the Liberals and teachers, and how he would approach the Glaze Report.
“The style of this current government is to override what have been long established processes,” he said. “I see people destroying relationships. Short-term wins against government versus labour is not long-term stability for any system, health or now education.
“Having an appropriate dialogue is key. In a leadership role you have to for starters send your Education Minister to do their job, and two if things fail your job as Premier is to get involved so getting into a political dog fight every time there is an issue, I don’t think that is what people expect of their Premier.”
He said what people want is for those in the system to be able to be heard of what the systems needs are.
Clarke said there are many points that people he has spoken to, including teachers, agree with in the Glaze Report, it’s the reaction of the government to drive and enforce it without thoughtful discussion that has people in an uproar.
“You need to think through how all the elements connect,” said Clarke. “What I would do is bring forward a new approach.
“I’ve told teachers that I have met with that if I become PC leader and then Premier, all I can commit to is repairing some of the damage that is going to be done.”
He said parents need to rise up and voice their displeasure.
“We need parents to speak up rather than this battle between government and the NSTU. What is it the parents want for their children? Their needs in the classrooms for their children?,” said Clarke. “If we start looking at the child in the classroom as the center of all this and work out, we’ll have a better dialogue. That’s the approach I would bring going to what this is really all about. It’s about our children and the quality of education.”
Clarke acknowledged politicians get a bad rap.
“There’s a lack of trust in politicians and government,” he said. “There is a lack of trust in the system period. Because of that trust being destroyed and sometimes betrayed, we have to earn support and the only way to do that is by engaging people.”
He responded to a question about what he would do regarding the Fall River quarry, if he was Premier. He said they are needed for the economy, but in the right spot.
“We all want better communities, and we have to build those,” he said. “We need resources. In this case, quarries are needed to be the fundamental basis for developments. We are a resource and mineral rich.
“I think one of the things is that government has invested in technology. Because we have a need, government should be looking at and saying where are the areas best for development.
“I believe going forward, we should be saying where are the areas most appropriate for development. We do need quarries; we do need mining, and we need the resource sector to grow. What we need to do as government is take a lesson from the offshore sector as science and good data gave us good information.”
He said if new approaches to business were in place, the Fall River quarry example might be different. He said government needs to take people within NSBI and re-position them as business development opportunities and navigators.
“When you come in you’re going to have someone that’s in government who works with Environment; Natural Resources; Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal; the whole gamut, so they’re getting the information to make fact-based decisions,” said Clarke.
He was asked if the PC membership, under his grassroots policy, wanted a policy to remove vice principals and principals from the NSTU or to eliminate school boards, would he support that.
“I know a lot of school boards across N.S., and they are not doing it for the money, but they’re community people,” he said. “A lot were acclaimed, but that is because people in their own community respect them and weren’t going to challenge them. I find school board members were left out of this (the Glaze Report).
“I think that is a bit of a red herring because many schools in N.S. have a working principal, and in most cases definitely a working vice principal, so they are in the classroom. In a European or urban setting, they may have population that make the legitimacy of separating based on the need. But our system is different.
“I would not do the knee-jerk of destroying the structure.”
PC members will chose their new leader on Oct. 27, 2018, using a riding-by-riding point system. The winner will need 2,551 or more points.