|05HALIFAX209||2005-09-29 21:19:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Consulate Halifax|
1. Summary: Nova Scotia Conservative Premier John Hamm
announced on September 29 that he would resign as soon as the
party finds a new leader. End Summary.
2. Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm ended speculation about his
political future on September 29 with his announcement that he
was giving up the premier's job. At age 67, Hamm has made no
secret of the fact that he was seriously contemplating retiring
from politics and sitting out the next provincial election which
could come at any time with a minority government led by the
Progressive Conservatives. He told former Ambassador Cellucci
in January that he did not want to commit to the three more
years in office which would be required if he were to run again.
While the last election in 2003 left Hamm and the Conservatives
with the most seats in the legislature, 25 of the total 52, they
were outnumbered by the opposition, split between the New
Democrats with their 15 seats and the Liberals with their 12.
Acknowledging that the voters' preference was to avoid another
immediate trip to the polls, the opposition NDP has worked out
an informal agreement to keep Hamm's government afloat in order
to maintain some stability and allow the Conservatives to pass
key legislature such as provincial budgets.
3. The premier, a well-liked former country doctor, has said
that he will stay on as leader for now until the party can find
a replacement, which should not be too difficult. Pundits have
already come up with a substantial list of would-be successors
including some cabinet ministers, nominated candidates for the
next election and a few outside of government and politics.
While the party executive works out the dates for a leadership
convention, it will not take long to see who starts campaigning
even before the starting gun sounds.
4. The change in leadership, while significant for the Nova
Scotia Tories because of Hamm's personal popularity here, will
have little or no impact on bilateral issues. Any likely
Conservative leader will continue Hamm's policies of seeking
good relations with the U.S., and in particular with the
Ambassador. The provincial NDP, the party most likely to form a
government if the Tories fail to get a majority in the next
election, has tended to pursue policies that are significantly
to the right of the national NDP, and is probably more
pro-defense than many Liberals and Conservatives in other parts
of the country. The provincial Liberal party is in disarray and
seems unlikely to do better than a weak third in an election,
but even if it were to win it would pursue pro-trade and
investment policies not too different from the Conservatives.