‘Very busy time’ for Premier-Designate Tim Houston as PCs prepare to take power in Nova Scotia
There's no date set yet for Nova Scotia's newly elected government to be sworn in, but work is underway behind closed doors to transition power from the longstanding Liberal government to the hands of the PCs.
Premier-Designate Tim Houston met with Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc Thursday morning at Government House, one of many meetings the PC leader will have in the coming days before he is sworn in as Nova Scotia’s 30th premier.
Voters handed Houston a majority government on Tuesday.
"This is a very, very busy time for Tim Houston," said Tom Urbaniak, a political science professor at Cape Breton University.
“This is not the United States and transitions happen quite quickly in the Canadian context. He does not have a lot of time to put together a transition team, to make some decisions about who will be nominated to cabinet."
"Now that he's been elected and he has a majority government, he has about two weeks to get everything together,” said Meredith Ralston, professor of Women’s Studies and Political Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University.
Former Premier Rodney MacDonald remembers those days well. MacDonald led the province from 2006 to 2009; the last Progressive Conservative government to do so.
"I can remember going into the position and getting a briefing from every department, from agencies,” said MacDonald.
He says one of Houston’s first tasks will be to select a cabinet.
“That’s a huge task and when you look at the list of the people that were elected on Tuesday night, you have an excellent group of people. I have no doubt that every one of those people are deserving to be in a cabinet post,” said MacDonald.
“The challenge for the premier is that he or she, in this case, Premier-Designate Houston, must take a look at geography, gender, backgrounds, whether it’s an education background or health background or legal background, business background whatever it might be or on the social side, community involvement and such. There are a lot of variables when deciding a cabinet and it’s always tough when you can’t have everybody in your cabinet.”
How many cabinet positions there will be and who will fill them is not yet known.
"I think because Mr. Houston has really been emphasizing the progressive part of the Progressive Conservatives. I think that there will be some incentive for him to make sure that he has close to gender parity in the cabinet,” said Ralston.
Experts don’t expect to see a lot of shake-up within the civil service with the new government.
"Historically, it actually was common to do a lot of replacing within the public service when a new government came in, but we have now a merit-based, non-partisan public service, so there won't be a massive shake-up of personnel in the public service,” said Urbaniak.
Once Houston does take office, Urbaniak says he will need some quick wins to establish goodwill, build positive energy and momentum.
"He, himself has acknowledged, for example, the health care reforms will not take effect overnight but he will have to show some good progress. So for example, on the ambulance wait times, to show that he is also starting to develop some of the long-term care beds, a high energy recruitment campaign for health care professionals. Those things can be rollout out pretty quickly,” said Urbaniak.