A companion piece to these profiles is an overview of all four Atlantic premiers previously published in ABM and posted here.
Today, Rodney MacDonald of Nova Scotia.
If being Premier is a difficult job at the best of times, then being Premier of a minority government has to be the most precarious of times. It’s a position that leaves little room for mistakes, requiring the balance of a tightrope walker along with a keen ear for political discord.
In other words, the skills of an athlete combined with the talent of a musician.
So it’s fortunate that Nova Scotia Premier Rodney Joseph MacDonald was both before he entered politics. A former teacher of physical education, on the hustings MacDonald is just as likely to pull out a fiddle as deliver a speech. With two albums and two East Coast Music Award nominations to his credit, he’s got game.
Just 34, MacDonald was first elected as MHA for Inverness in 1999. He was the surprise choice as Progressive Conservative leader in February 2006, inheriting the Premier’s office and a minority government. In June he won his own mandate, also with a minority.
Still, he has an ambitious plan: facing the pan-Atlantic need to develop the economy and retain his province’s educated youth, MacDonald looks across the sea to Ireland for inspiration. Rather than focus on the region’s traditional industries and resource extraction, his goal is to attract information technology and financial services. With an extensive network of nationally ranked university and community colleges, he touts Nova Scotia’s workforce as highly skilled and ready to deliver.
“Over the next five years we’ll see roughly 4000 to 5000 jobs in information technology here in our province,” says MacDonald. “That means opportunity for people to come home, that means career choices for people coming out of school, and that means good paying jobs.”
In the last year, his government announced the expansion to Nova Scotia of Research in Motion (RIM) with a new 1200-person technical support operations centre. Shortly thereafter, Citco Fund Services, the world's leading hedge fund administrator, officially opened the doors of its new Halifax operation, bringing the province up to 350 new jobs.
On the regional level, his vision goes far beyond the Atlantica concept. MacDonald plans to leverage Nova Scotia's port, airport, road and rail links, and its strategic location for access to Asia and India through the Suez Canal, to make his province the Atlantic Gateway to the globe.
On the domestic front, he shows a thoughtfulness and political realism that belie his years. On the reputation of politicians, he admits, “Unfortunately, it’s not where I’d like to see it. We need to continue to work with the public on ensuring that, not only that we fully appreciate what their issues are but they fully appreciate the job we have to do and, at times, the decisions we have to make.”
“I think in year’s past there was greater respect for our elected representatives.”
As Premier, he is sobered by the dignity of his office. His biggest surprise since taking office has been “How strongly people feel about the position, not necessarily about the person in the position; and the level of respect they give the position of Premier….There’s a real strong connection between the position of premier and the people of the province.”