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Prominent N.S. Tories considering federal bids, buoyed by Liberal troubles

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's Tory leader says possible federal bids from three provincial PC legislators is a signal of Justin Trudeau's falling fortunes.
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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's Tory leader says possible federal bids from three provincial PC legislators is a signal of Justin Trudeau's falling fortunes.

The spring session of the legislature ended Friday with three Progressive Conservative MLAs discussing potential plans to run in this year's national race.

Chris d'Entremont, the member for Argyle-Barrington and a former cabinet minister, confirmed to journalists he will seek the federal nomination in West Nova.

Eddie Orrell, the member for Northside-Westmount, also confirmed he's in the final stages of planning a potential bid for a federal nomination in Sydney.

And Alfie MacLeod, the member for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, said he will take the next month to finalize his decision on whether to run in the Liberal stronghold of Cape Breton-Canso.

Party leader Tim Houston said if the exodus unfolds, it won't reflect poorly on him or suggest there is unfinished business from his recent victory in the party's leadership contest.

Rather, he says there's "a lot of pressure to seek a federal nomination," for members of his 17-person caucus, who are keen to break the Liberal grip on Atlantic Canada.

"It's more a reflection of what is happening elsewhere in government," he said.

"I think what you're seeing here is there is pressure on members of the legislature to seek federal nominations and there's opportunities that are created by the way the (federal) Liberals are working."

"I don't think, if this were the last federal election, that you would see that many members seeking opportunities. The landscape has changed."

D'Entremont is a former cabinet minister in past Tory governments, and has held his seat in southern Nova Scotia for five provincial elections.

He said outside the house that he's done most of what he'd set out to do in provincial politics.

The party stalwart served in the governments of former Tory premiers John Hamm and Rodney MacDonald, and his accomplishments include bringing in the family pharmacare program while he was minister of health.

He's looking to run in the southern Nova Scotia riding of West Nova — which has swung back and forth between the Liberals and Conservatives over the past century. Incumbent Liberal MP Colin Fraser announced last year he would not seek re-election.

Orrell said outside the house that he wants to deliver more for Cape Breton as a federal MP.

"I figure ... it's time to get back to a Tory government in Ottawa to deliver more for the area... I'm up for a challenge," he said.

He said he'll finalize his decision over the weekend following a discussion with his wife and family.

MacLeod, wearing his trademark tartan tie, said "this may very well be my last question in the House of Assembly," during question period.

He then asked — to loud cheers — about what the minister's plan was to upgrade the New Boston Road, a rural route in his riding that he's complained about for the past decade.

MacLeod later told reporters his decision may be influenced by whether Cape Breton-Canso Liberal MP Roger Cuzner decides to re-offer, noting that incumbency is a key factor in Atlantic Canadian politics.

"I believe there is a switch going on. I believe there is a shift in the attitude of individuals and I want to be the agent of that change," said MacLeod.

The Liberal government doesn't seem to be facing a similar exodus, though Environment Minister Margaret Miller has said she won't be re-offering in 2021.

Premier Stephen McNeil wished the departing Tory members well, focusing on d'Entremont's record of cordial conduct.

He said he expects all of his party's members will be back for the legislature's fall session.

However, the premier says a cabinet shuffle is likely before that session.

— Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press




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