As It Happens

Why did Nova Scotia turn blue? 'We were ready,' says Progressive Conservative MLA 

Nova Scotians elected Progressive Conservative government because the party spent the last two years hammering out a thorough health-care plan that resonated with voters, says Karla MacFarlane.

Karla MacFarlane keeps her seat in Pictou West as N.S. elects a PC majority

Nova Scotia PC MLA Karla MacFarlane held onto her seat in Pictou West in the provincial election on Tuesday. (CBC)

Story Transcript

Nova Scotians elected Progressive Conservative government because the party spent the last two years hammering out a thorough health-care plan that resonated with voters, says Karla MacFarlane.

The PC MLA held onto her seat in Pictou West on Tuesday night, as her party unseated the ruling Liberals and formed a majority government.

Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. 

When you heard the early results showed you in the lead last night, I understand that you did not initially join in on the cheering. So why was that?

I was standing behind most of my volunteers that were in front of me. And I guess with my age, my eyesight is getting worse than I had anticipated, and when I saw the numbers … it looked like I was under what my Liberal opponent was, and my heart just sank.

I was standing next to the doors to exit the building, and I just walked out, and I had that awful feeling in the pit of [my] stomach. And I was like, what went wrong? What did I do wrong?

And then the next thing I knew, my campaign manager came out and corrected me. And I was like, "Are you kidding me?" She said, "You saw it wrong, Carla."

A number of your fellow PC candidates ended up unseating some pretty prominent Liberal cabinet members. Why do you think that your party was able to do this despite, you know, the expectation quite early in the election process that the Liberals were going to stay in power?

I believe that the individual candidates speak for themselves with their own integrity. If you look at them, they all had such great involvement within their communities and already had such a great foundation. 

Working with my colleague [premier-designate] Tim Houston in the past, we really worked hard to go across this province and look for people that really wanted to put their hand up, that really wanted this and knew what it took to win and to be dedicated day in, day out.

When I was interim leader, [someone] asked me, "Well, what is it that you really want in a leader?" And I said, "I want someone that works harder than me." And that's what we got for a premier. Tim Houston is a workaholic. He does not stop. And I think anyone that put their name forward knew that they would have to keep up with him.

And of course, we had a really good platform, and we worked hard on it for the past two years, especially our health-care plans that we put out.

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston, flanked by his wife, Carol, daughter, Paget, and son, Zachary, left to right, addresses supporters after winning a majority government in the provincial election at the Pictou County Wellness Centre in New Glasgow, N.S., on Tuesday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

I want to ask you about that, because not only was that the lead issue that Tim Houston took on in this campaign, [but] you're someone who has a connection to that, as well as someone who served recently as the health critic for your party. So these promises of improvements that he has made, where do you see them going? How do you do that, and how much is it going to cost?

Anyone that has had the opportunity to look at, you know, our platform and our plans, they are going to cost money. And we have not shied away from telling people that it's going to cost.

Once we get in government, [we'll] have that luxury of knowing where you can be more efficient and effective. And that certainly will help maybe save some costs to put towards what our plans are.

But I hope people realize that our plans were, you know, two years in the making, and that we put a lot of time and effort into going across this province and speaking to those allied health-care professionals that are on the front lines. But we also spoke to management. We also spoke to patients that were in the hospital. We listened. We consulted for two years, and put this plan together.

You seem to be suggesting, though, that you might be able to pay for this by saving money elsewhere. We're talking about a huge amount of money. There's [nearly] 70,000 Nova Scotians who don't have a doctor. You're dealing with extremely long wait lists. You know, where does that money come from?

We hope to find some efficiencies within the system. But I think we're at a point where we just believe that we have to spend the money. If you do not have your health, you have nothing. And we all know by knocking on these doors — I mean, I knocked on 4,500 — the No. 1 Issue is: "I don't have a doctor."

Tim Houston: "We've proved that just because there is a pandemic, doesn't mean government gets a free pass"

2 years ago
Duration 1:35
The Tories will return to power for the first time since 2009 and deny the Liberals a third consecutive win.

Tim Houston was very clear throughout the campaign in defining himself as a red Tory. He went so far as to say he's not actually a member of the federal Conservative Party. Why was there this conscious effort to distance him from Erin O'Toole and the federal Conservatives?

I think Premier Houston has to answer that question himself. I can't speak for [him]. 

I think it's obvious to a lot of people, though, that the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia is not the same party [as] the Conservative Party of Canada. We do have the Liberals and the NDP who tend to like to confuse them for their own strategy reasons. But we are very different. And we have members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia that are members of the Conservative Party of Canada, but many are not, and vice versa.

Do you support Erin O'Toole and the federal Conservatives?

I don't have a membership, a federal Conservative membership. I supported [former Conservative MP and cabinet minister] Peter MacKay. Peter MacKay has been great. A great friend. Long before politics, I knew Peter and I've been here in Pictou County and he's a bit older than me and grew up [here]. And certainly I supported Peter and was extremely sad that he was not the chosen leader.

But right now, again, I'm just so focused provincially, and so that's my focus. And in Central Nova, I don't even believe, at this point, we have a candidate running federally.

A lot of people are looking at what happened in your province and wondering if it foretells something about what might happen in September at the federal level. What do you think federal leaders might take away from your party's campaign?

We were ready. We were ready as a team. And if those individuals in Nova Scotia associate our party with the federal Conservative Party, it will have an effect at the polls and on how, perhaps, they vote. 

I can't say for certain. The tale will be told in September. But I think that people are recognizing the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia as being one that is one with vision and compassion and empathy, and one that has always listened.

Do you plan to vote Conservative in the federal election?

I think that I will consider all my options.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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