John Lohr announces bid for PC Party leadership

Kings North MLA John Lohr is the second person to officially enter the race. He follows Pictou East MLA Tim Houston, who announced his candidacy in November.

Lohr joins Pictou East MLA Tim Houston in race to replace Jamie Baillie

John Lohr is running in the province's Progressive Conservative leadership race. (www.JohnLohr.ca)

John Lohr says he's ready to serve the public "in an even greater way" and on Monday confirmed speculation that he would seek the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leadership.

The Kings North MLA is the second person to officially enter the race. He follows Pictou East MLA Tim Houston, who announced his candidacy in November, a few weeks after Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said he would step down from the helm of the party and leave politics.

Like Houston, Lohr was first elected in 2013 and then re-elected in the 2017 spring election, substantially growing his margin of victory. The lifelong farmer said he understands what it's like to run a small business and the challenges involved. He's also been extensively involved in his community as a volunteer for years.

"I think that's what got me elected first in 2013 and again in 2017," Lohr said in an interview.

Lohr said he began seriously considering a run the day after Baillie's announcement. He started putting a team together in early November, he said.

"That's come together very nicely for me," said Lohr. "It took time, though. It took a couple of months to put it together."

Campaign to focus on 3 pillars

The Canning, N.S., native and son of Dutch immigrants said his campaign is focused on three key areas: Support for people; support for the economy; and "returning integrity to Nova Scotia's government."

While his campaign will roll out policy views in the coming months, Lohr said he is focused on improving health care, youth retention and rural high-speed internet. On integrity, he said it's important a government does what it says it will do and is willing to own up to mistakes.

"The world I come from in agriculture, business is done on word of mouth, on a handshake — and not even a handshake sometimes," he said. "I want to bring that kind of ethic to whatever we do in government."

Lohr said he intends to travel the province extensively in the coming months and meet as many people as he can. "For me it will be the quickest, busiest year of my life, I'm sure."

Party AGM a chance to network

As an MLA, Lohr has pushed for an expansion of Nova Scotia's mental-health court system. His son Caleb, who suffered from psychosis, was found dead in 2014 near a popular hiking trail at Cape Split. A month earlier, Caleb had fled police investigating a break and enter by paddling a canoe in the Northwest Arm.

Lohr said his team is still waiting on the final rules for the leadership race before finalizing some rollout plans. But he said he wanted to announce his intentions now because he's ready, the party's upcoming annual meeting allows candidates to host hospitality suites and meet people, and because Houston is already in the race.

"I think that the PC Party has been anxious to know, wants to know, who else is in this race."

Jamie Baillie, seen here in 2013, will step down as PC Party leader. (The Canadian Press)

Lohr declined to contrast himself with Houston, saying he'd leave that to the public and party members.

The difference in campaign announcements, however — Lohr took several months and then announced with an online video and news release, while Houston was out of the gates in a matter of weeks with a full-scale campaign rally — is in itself illustrative of the personality differences between the two men.

While they arrived at Province House at the same time, Houston has shown a more brash and ambitious style compared to Lohr's more methodical and understated approach.

Leadership rules and timelines

While a date for the leadership convention hasn't been set yet, some of the rules have been established.

Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d'Entremont, a co-chair of the leadership selection committee, said expenses, including in-kind support, have been capped at $325,000.

Donation rules will follow standard Elections Nova Scotia guidelines. It means donations to candidates can only come from individuals, are subject to normal rules for tax receipt purposes, and a donor cannot give more than $5,000 a year.

D'Entremont said the plan is to have all of the remaining rules finalized, along with a date, location and format for the convention, in time to be announced at the party's annual meeting next month in Halifax. Information will also be published on the party's website.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca