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Parties & Leaders
CBC Online News | Updated May 13, 2006
He became premier of Nova Scotia by winning the Progressive Conservative leadership just three months ago. Now Rodney MacDonald, the 34-year-old fiddler from Mabou, is out to officially stake his own claim as leader of the province.
In fact, it's his election to lose.
"It's always good to dole out money and say the province is running a surplus," says David Johnson, a political scientist at Cape Breton University.
MacDonald took over the reins from John Hamm, a popular leader considered the classic image of a Nova Scotia premier – an elder statesman who is everybody's favourite uncle.
Johnson jokes that voters will decide if MacDonald – now the youngest premier in Canada – fits the mould of everybody's favourite nephew.
"He might want to claim to be loyal to the Hamm legacy and at the same time represent generational change."
MacDonald grew up in Cape Breton. He was a small-town gym teacher and a fiddler, appearing on stages around Eastern Canada and the United States. He was up for two prizes at the 1998 East Coast Music Awards.
His career in politics started when he was elected as the MLA for Inverness in 1999. Over the years he served as minister of tourism, culture and heritage; health promotion; and immigration; and was responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation and the administration of the Heritage Property Act.
But he has never held a major portfolio such as health, education or finance.
MacDonald launched his campaign for the Tory leadership in November 2005, selling both his young age and his experience as an MLA and cabinet minister as his assets.
Three months later at the leadership convention, MacDonald beat former insurance executive Bill Black on the second ballot, by 1,263 votes to 855.
One of the new leader's goals was to broaden the party and attract new members.
"If we're going to grow in Halifax Metro we need to reach out more to individuals. I've committed to that as a leader," MacDonald told reporters.
He tried to do just that with his first budget.
Brought down May 9, the something-for-everyone document reads like a campaign platform – as it turned out to be – with various tax cuts and spending announcements for schools, roads and other infrastructure projects.
As for popularity, MacDonald appears to top the list.
In a poll by Corporate Research Associates released in March, about 36 per cent of respondents said they would most prefer MacDonald as premier, compared to 23 per cent for NDP Leader Darrell Dexter and 16 per cent for Liberal Leader Francis MacKenzie.
But does MacDonald, a young and inexperienced leader, have what it takes to lead his party to win a majority of seats and form the government?
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Born:Jan. 2, 1972, in Inverness; grew up in Mabou
Education:Bachelor of science in physical education from St. Francis Xavier University
Employment:Played fiddle on stages in Eastern Canada and the United States; nominated for two East Coast Music Awards in 1998. Taught for the Strait Regional School Board and the Mi'kmawey School at Chapel Island
Politics:First elected as MLA for Inverness in 1999; re-elected in 2003. Chosen as leader of Progressive Conservative party on Feb. 11, 2006. Sworn in as premier on Feb. 24, 2006
Family: Married to Lori-Ann (Gillis); son Ryan, 8
Progressive Conservative leader Rodney MacDonald became premier of Nova Scotia by winning the Progressive Conservative leadership just three months ago.
New Democratic Party leader Darrell Dexter
Liberal leader Francis MacKenzie has two battles: one to win a seat in the legislature, the other to lift the Liberal party from its third-party status.
Green Party leader Nick Wright looks at it this way: the Green party in Nova Scotia is a winner even before the province's voters go to the polls on June 13.