With the PEI Progressive Conservative Party Leadership race well under way The Post Millennial is taking the opportunity to sit down with all the candidates.
PEI politics is often overlooked by the national spotlights, so with five diverse candidates looking to take the position of leader of the opposition we thought they should be getting more attention. In this series we will be interviewing all five people vying to be leader of the PCs and the hopeful Premier of PEI.
Shawn Driscoll is a 34-year old former staffer and candidate. Originally from Charlottetown, he first entered politics while studying Political Science at Dalhousie University. First as a member of the Dal Campus Conservative Club and later as an intern for the Conservative Party.
After his internship he took a job as a staffer for former PEI MP and Minister of Fisheries Gail Shea. After Gail lost her seat in the 2015 election, Shawn took his own step into politics, unsuccessfully running for a seat in the provincial legislature.
Since 2015 he’s worked for the PC Party of Nova Scotia and sat on the PEI PC Party executive.
When I asked him what motivated him to run for PC Leadership he said “I was always looking at the party from the inside, and I always liked what this party stands for. I was looking to run again in the next election in West Royalty, but when James said he was stepping down and no candidates were coming forward I thought that I’m young and life is short so why not take the chance.”
I asked him a few questions about what he believes and what he would do as leader and premier if elected.
PLOYER: How would you summarize your political position?
DRISCOLL: I would say I’m a Conservative. That’s the reason why I got into the race.
I find that the party’s been its most recognizable when we stick to our values and principles. We look to lower taxes, less government, and to support families. Sounds pretty run of the mill but it works.
It’s basic, but it’s why we have a lot to offer islanders. When the next election is called islanders will want change and we can’t be the same as Liberals or the Greens or else we’ll lose.
PLOYER: What are your thoughts on “outmigration”, having to leave PEI for work elsewhere?
DRISCOLL: I’ve experienced it myself firsthand when your friends or family have to leave the island for opportunity, that’s reality for most people, not just the young.
We talk about younger people but it hits all age groups. I got two brothers that live out West and have to travel back and forth. I know a lot of people I graduated high school with in the same situation.
No one can eliminate that 100%, you know, but I’m going to try my best to limit the need for that. I think I come from a unique opportunity because I’ve actually experienced it myself.
One of my main focuses is making sure people who want to live here can work here, raise a family here, and make life better on PEI.
PLOYER: What do you think it means exactly be Progressive Conservative?
DRISCOLL: Well Premier Angus MacLean had the 10 principles, which I agree with. I think we have to be fiscally conservative and socially progressive.
I know for Conservatives there’s this taboo with environment but I don’t see that, I believe we [PCs] have been good stewards of the environment, and I think as opposed to the Green Party for us it means less government and a more scientific approach.
PLOYER: So what do you feel are the biggest issues faced by islanders and how would you address them as a leader?
DRISCOLL: Well it depends on what area you live in. In Charlottetown it could be transit, when you get out into the rural areas it’s doctors.
I think that as a leader you want to be able to take positions on those areas of need, not put your finger up and see which way the wind is blowing.
Unlike this Premier you have to lead bottom-up and listen to people on the ground, and then be comfortable making the final decision and going forward on it. You have the interests of all islanders in mind.
This current Premier came in talking about transparency and accountability and he’s been not transparent or accountable. What the people are getting at is a mistrust of their government.
PLOYER: How would you address situation of rural Islanders today?
DRISCOLL: I would say that the the roots of the tree come from rural PEI, so all the growth of the province can’t be in Charlottetown or Summerside.
We have a 2.5 billion dollars debt with a 100 million dollar servicing of that debt. We’re not Nova Scotia or New Brunswick we don’t have the same natural resources, we don’t have natural gas.
Our farmers and our fisheries have to play a critical role so I think if we have to support those industries and work with communities and schools to make sure we’re geared for success.
PLOYER:You recently raised some concerns about another candidate. You’re worried there may be some problems within the party? How would you address them?
DRISCOLL: I have a great respect for all candidates in this race and our party. I want to be clear though – I believe there are definitely issues within our party.
We have seen seven Leaders, 13 Chiefs of Staff after 12 years out of government, and where are we? Sitting in Opposition with no clear path to taking government in the next election.
If we have any chance of getting Islander’s votes, we need to shake things up. We need a party that isn’t run by backroom politics and an old boy’s club.
We need one that is built strong from the bottom up. Most of all, we need a party that listens and works with its members on the ground- they know best.