John Percy is hoping the third time's the charm for the Green Party of Nova Scotia.
The party is heading into the third general election since its founding in 2006, but it has never won a seat. In the last election the party took 2.3 per cent of the vote. Percy thinks this time will be different.
"I think, realistically, we have a shot at probably two seats," he said, suggesting the party will concentrate their limited resources on the NDP-held electoral districts of Kings North and Halifax Needham.
"We're not a wealthy party, so we're going to pick and choose our battles."
Percy himself is a new face to voters after the party had a change of leadership in October 2009.
He's been struggling to raise the visibility of the Green Party of Nova Scotia, answering up to 300 emails a day and writing content for the party website — matters no other party leader would handle alone.
"For years, we were perceived as commie-hippie-tree huggers. Really, nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "We are fiscal conservatives and social progressives. Those two are not diametrically opposed in any way."
Energy issues form a large part of the Green platform and Percy recognizes that electricity prices will be a key point in the election. But he says it's disingenuous to talk about freezing power rates.
"What people fail to realize is that Nova Scotia Power doesn't belong to the people of Nova Scotia anymore," he said.
'We're not a wealthy party, so we're going to pick and choose our battles.' —John Percy
"We can't freeze power rates and we can't lower power rates. We have set up the Utility and Review Board to monitor power rate increases. They do a very good job."
He says people should concentrate more on saving energy and cites his own experiments on his 3,000-square-foot home in Lower Sackville.
Percy said he was able to drop his average electricity bill from $230 to $150, using conservation techniques such as unplugging devices that use a trickle of energy constantly.
"My lifestyle hasn't changed really significantly at all, but I'm saving hundreds of dollars a year on my power bills," he said.
Percy is also not confident the $1.52-billion Maritime Link — to bring Newfoundland and Labrador hydroelectricity to Nova Scotia — would be the cheapest energy deal for the province. He said a large project is likely to bring a better return to Nova Scotia Power shareholders and thinks the government has not proved its case.
"It bothers me that someone like Quebec Hydro has a surplus of power that they can't sell. Yet we do not tap into that," he said.
A pillar of the Green platform is instituting a carbon tax. Percy admits that's a dirty word in any election, but insists the tax wouldn't cost Nova Scotians more.
"You're going to pay the carbon tax, but we're going to reduce your income tax and we're going to reduce your payroll taxes," he said. "So those things balance out for individuals but the people that are actually creating the carbon are going to pay."
Percy has a background in the arts: he's a musician who has worked in film, television and theatre, and has operated his own small production company.
He's worked for all three major political parties in the past, citing Stephen Lewis, Joe Clark and Pierre Trudeau as some of his political heroes.
Percy's biggest goal is to make the political process accessible and understood by more people. That's the first thing he'd do if he found himself in the premier's chair tomorrow.
"I would want to sit down and find a different way of governing; change the governance model here so there's more openness and more public input," he said.
He encourages people to talk to him about political issues, saying he particularly wants to hear from people who have different views than his own.
"In the absence of hearing from people, politicians just make stuff up," he said.