AMHERST – Jonathan Dean wants your vote. Or he might, should the Atlantica Party run an MLA candidate in this riding in the next provincial election.
The Bedford-based leader of the regional political party dropped by the newspaper office to share his views about the state of politics in our province and what he thinks Atlantica has to offer.
“I’m a reluctant politician but something has to be done,” said Dean, who is privately employed as a financial adviser.
“The time is now for a new political deal in Nova Scotia,” said the party leader. “People are voting with their feet.”
Voter turnout has dropped substantially over the years, according to Dean, and he thinks voter disengagement is a big reason why. People aren’t getting stupid, they’re growing wise to how little difference their vote makes, he contended.
“I don’t blame the citizen one little bit,” he said.
“I think there’s a huge appetite out there for an alternative.”
Dean spelled out a number of ways in which he believes Atlantica offers that alternative. For starters, he said infrastructure – including education – and healthcare are core functions for government, although he indicated he’s open to proposals for private-public partnerships. The economy, however, should be left in private hands, and Dean would like to see corporate tax eliminated completely in the belief it will benefit the province’s economy. He would also like to see government spending cut in the order of 15-per cent, which he said would match spending levels five years ago.
Greater regional integration is a priority for the party. At a minimum, an economic union is deemed desirable by Atlantica. Dean said he recognized political union did not have broad public support right now, although he feels it’s a topic that warrants debate.
He’s pro-business, it seems, but social conservatism doesn’t appear to be part of Atlantica’s agenda. Dean would support the legalization of marijuana and thinks the government has no business legislating gay marriage, pro or con; the state shouldn’t be involved, he said. And for reasons he described as principled, Atlantica deregistered itself as a political party; Dean doesn’t think political parties, as basically an assembly of private citizens, deserve taxpayer support.
The Atlantica Party would oppose whipped votes, said Dean (where MLAs are required to vote as their leader dictates). He spoke out strongly on the issue of voting records which, he claimed, are not commonly noted in the Nova Scotia legislature. If you want to know how your MLA voted on a particular bill, in most cases that information isn’t kept, he said, adding that he thinks there’s something “almost sinister” about the omission.
Dean appears to be under no illusions of instant or even near-term success for Atlantica.
“By doing the hard work,” he said, word will get out. He seemed aware of the power of brands in politics, but said perceptions of his party will change when people know who they are and realize they aren’t going away: then people will take them seriously, he said, even if they differ with the party on policy issues.
The next provincial election will be the party’s first, although Dean has run in the past as an independent (espousing an Atlantica platform). The leader said the party’s membership levels are comparable to the provincial Green Party’s.