Nova Scotia Tory leader sees himself as an ideas man with a common touch

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By Michael MacDonald - The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — Jamie Baillie has been variously described as a nerdy policy wonk, earnest ideas man and cerebral bean-counter.

Jim Meadows, a resident of Stewiacke, walks with Progressive Conservative party leader Jamie Baillie following an announcement at Meadows' home. Baillie is making a commitment to scrap the "gold-plated" MLA pension plan if elected premier.

For the chartered accountant and leader of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives, these are qualities worthy of a man who wants to be premier of a province that has recorded Canada’s worst economic performance, on average, over the past 20 years.

“My expertise is in finance and economics,” says Baillie, 47, who is originally from Truro. “I’m proud to put my resume out there for Nova Scotians to see.”

Baillie’s business-friendly resume reads like an ad for the chamber of commerce.

He served as CEO of Credit Union Atlantic after working for an executive search firm and as vice-president of finance for CitiGroup Properties. He’s also co-chaired the United Way of Halifax, served as chairman for Halifax’s Neptune Theatre and as a director with numerous organizations.

At first glance, it might appear Baillie would be hard pressed to connect with average voters — a virtual prerequisite of modern, leader-centred politics.

But Baillie insists he has the common touch.

“Like everybody else, I enjoy having a beer on a summer day,” he says, adding that the beverage is usually accompanied by policy papers on the economy.

“That’s what people want in a premier.”

And when asked to reveal something about himself that voters might not know, Baillie recalls his younger days when he was a competitive curler.

“As a curler, I’m the guy you sit around with after a game ... over a beer,” he says. “I’m a dad with two young kids. I attend the neighbourhood barbecues, I lend out tools to my neighbours and borrow their’s from time to time.”

He’s also a big fan of the irreverent animated series “The Simpsons.”

“I can quote from many of their episodes,” he says. “I’m the guy next door, and that’s the part of me people are getting to see during the campaign.”

And even though he has led the Tories for only three years — the election marks his first campaign as leader — he also has a long political pedigree.

While he was attending Dalhousie University in Halifax, he was elected president of the Young Progressive Conservatives and took part in a panel that debated the issues at the campus radio station. At the time, the leader of the Young New Democrats was Darrell Dexter, now the province’s premier.

As well, Baillie served as chief of staff to Conservative Premier John Hamm for three years, starting in 2002. Baillie says he still considers Hamm a mentor.

He may not be charismatic or flashy, but Baillie has a sense of humour that easily tilts toward self-deprecation.

During the Tory party’s annual meeting earlier this year, Baillie took aim at his image as a bald, boring numbers man.

“Unlike Justin Trudeau,” he said, “I will not exploit my natural good looks and sex appeal for political gain.”

Organizations: Credit Union Atlantic, CitiGroup Properties, United Way Neptune Theatre Dalhousie University Young Progressive Conservatives Young New Democrats

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada Truro

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