Hants West MLA ‘overwhelmed' with support after leaving Tories

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on July 14, 2014

Hants West MLA Chuck Porter is no longer a Progressive Conservative member of the House of Assembly. He now sits as an independent.

Ashley Thompson

Hants West MLA Chuck Porter has no regrets about his decision to part ways with the Progressive Conservatives.

“The positive side of it now is I’m free to speak to various government departments and work with ministers to ensure the issues and concerns get addressed that we have here in Hants West,” said Porter.

He plans to return to the House this fall as an independent, and assess whatever options may come his way as opportunities arise.

“History would show that people think you have to be affiliated with a party to do your job — that’s not the case,” he said.

Porter resigned from the PC Party in mid-June, citing differences with Leader Jamie Baillie as the primary reason for his decision to serve as an independent MLA.

The same day Porter announced his move away from the PC caucus, Baillie issued a press release accusing Porter of missing a number of meetings since the election in October.

“For me, this is a difficult day, but accountability must mean something if people are ever going to have faith in our system again,” said Baillie, in the prepared statement issued June 13.

Porter described Baillie’s release as “fabricated.” He said he missed some meetings in Halifax due to health issues that the caucus was aware of, but participated in several meetings via conference calls.

Now that some time has passed, Porter said he has no question he made the right decision.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support that I’ve had.”

In fact, for now, he believes he is in a better position to serve the people of Hants West as an independent.

“I have the ability to work with whomever is in government in a respectful way,” he said.

Porter has won three consecutive elections, managing to secure the Hants West seat for the Tories in both NDP and Liberal surges that resulted in majority governments.

Lori Turnbull, a political science professor at Dalhousie University, said constituency work will be key for Porter in the years leading up to the next election.

“If he wants to get re-elected he’s really going to have to beat the bushes in terms of convincing people that he’s going to be able to do as much as he ever could and he’s still the best person,” she said.

“It’s a Tory seat and when it comes to running an election, a party is a very powerful thing.”

Turnbull said it is a daunting task to run against candidates endorsed by a party, but an independent with a following stands a shot at success.

“If he runs a really good campaign, and he keeps his nose clean, and he’s a good constituency MLA, then he might be OK.”