Who will Liberals choose to be their next leader and premier of the province? Three white men and three former cabinet ministers — Randy Delorey, Labi Kousoulis, and Iain Rankin — are competing for the job. 

The first online forum went “live” late last week. They tussled politely over planning for a post-pandemic economic recovery and how to deal with a crisis in affordable housing, among many other topics. They also discussed the need to attract more women and people from diverse cultures to seek leadership roles within the political party. 

For the record, here’s a sample of the discussion from the first forum moderated by Jane Taber from National Public Relations.

Topic: How to Re-build the Economy After a Pandemic Leaves NS $1 Billion Short by March 2021.

Randy Delorey, MLA for Antigonish, former Health Minister, taught business management at St. Francis Xavier University. 

We have to get the vaccine rollout correct — that’s the number 1 challenge and opportunity for the province — that will build public confidence for participation. It opens the doors to economic recovery but only if we get the vaccine distribution correct. That opportunity comes from having good strong public health policy; that’s going to lead to strong economic policy.

The challenge is we are still going to take a number of months to get the vaccine distributed across the province and that means we are still going to have sectors of our economy and people struggling to get by. We will continue to support businesses and people who need it while building the economy and adhering to public health protocols.

Labi Kousoulis, MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, former Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, worked in banking before operating his own business.

I am committed to doing whatever it takes to get our small businesses and Nova Scotians through this pandemic. If we don’t get our small businesses through this so they can keep operating, we are going to have some very tough decisions as a government because our revenues will drop significantly. I will not let that happen. We have two choices: (1) to make investments now and help our small businesses, (2) the other is we will need to support many Nova Scotians, some of whom are out of work now. I have brought forward policies to assist small businesses, to reduce property taxes. To do anything else is short-sighted and the long-term consequences will be enormous.

Iain Rankin, MLA for Timberlea-Beechville, former Minister of the Environment and Minister of Lands & Forestry, worked previously managing his family’s gas station. 

I agree the biggest challenge is continuing to manage the pandemic and ensure that we are listening to public health experts. I think what sets me apart is that I clearly see the opportunity to invest in Nova Scotians — to make sure this recovery deals with the climate crisis and inequality. We have some serious societal issues. We need to look at how we can provide better housing for Nova Scotians and how we can make sure this recovery will include people from communities that have been left behind, in past economic recovery efforts from 2008, and make sure we are growing back with a lower carbon economy.

We can invest in things like renewables, electrify our transportation network, bring our buildings to net-zero and create jobs across the province. It’s the one area where experts and economists agree that governments can invest to grow jobs and reduce emissions. That’s a win-win and this is our opportunity.

Topic: What are your ideas for addressing homelessness and the growing issues around affordability?

Iain Rankin: 

I did come out with a comprehensive plan and the first part is developing a task force. My leadership style is collaborative, and we need to make sure we are working together, with other levels of government, with non-profit groups, and the private sector. We need to bring on more supply which is the core. We need market-oriented units, so incentives for the private sector. But we also need non-market or affordable units. The non-profit sector told me they need some financial guarantees. That’s in my policy. We would work with non-profits that have liquidity and good governance. 

Another part of this is we cannot allow people to be evicted or renovicted during a State of Emergency. I did not feel that was right so I did put a rent cap in place that I think should have been put in place immediately. I spoke up about this with my colleagues at the start of the pandemic; I continue to speak about it and I’m glad the government has responded to make sure Nova Scotians aren’t removed from their place of residence which is a human right according to the United Nations.

Randy Delorey: 

We do currently live in a province that does have a cap on rent increases and has limitations on evictions during this pandemic. In addition there is a committee struck to make recommendations to government, but as we go through this, the work that needs to be done needs to continue to be collaborative. The solution, as we know, to a shortage of housing availability is to increase the stock. That’s the medium- and long-term solution to the challenge before us. It’s not unique here, other jurisdictions have faced it and also struggle with it. 

So we have to work to take down the barriers that prevent or delay the construction of new units. We do that by partnering with our municipal partners. We also need to recognize we need to work with NGOs — non-profit groups to support social housing. So we continue that work to chart a path forward to make sure there is enough housing available for all Nova Scotians.

Labi Kousoulis: 

This is one of the largest issues facing Nova Scotians and one I am passionate about and one I have spoken about on the floor of the legislature. It is definitely a supply issue and we also definitely have a homelessness issue. I was the first candidate to bring out policies on this. For me it is very important and as well, I’m the only candidate that has addressed homelessness. I’ve said that homelessness is unacceptable. In my platform I’ve said that I’m committed to looking at long-term plans to provide smaller units where we can have people with wraparound supports to get them back on their feet. In the short term, we can use our hotels and motels to do so.

As I travelled the province, this is not an HRM issue — it is a provincial issue. That is why my task force has individuals on it from Cape Breton, and from Mi’kmaq communities, and those who need more accessibility to look at the supply and the cost of those units. One thing I have also heard from our seniors is they want purpose-built housing for them and that is in my plan as well.

Another all-candidates forum will be held on Facebook (LiberalPartyNS) December 17 at 7 pm. A new leader will be chosen early in February.

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Let’s be clear, the lack of affordable housing is not a supply issue but rather a greed issue.