GUYSBOROUGH – “It feels good to be free. I’ve been telling people I’ve been released on probation here,” Hines said jokingly when The Journal asked him how it felt to be a civilian again, no longer serving as a political representative of the people.
Hines started his political career in the 1980s, first serving on the local school board, moving to municipal council – first as a councillor and later warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. He was first elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly as MLA for Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie in 2013, and was re-elected in 2017.
He has served as Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
Hines was defeated in the recent provincial election, as a blue wave swept over much of Nova Scotia for the Progressive Conservatives.
Over the years, he said, his motivation for participating in politics has remained the same: working to make a better place to live for all.
“I wanted the best community that we could have for our family,” Hines said of his decision to get involved in the school board in 1982, “and doing our best to help everybody out in the process. That was my motivation, to improve the community, and it’s still the same in 2021.”
Having held public office for just shy of 36 years, Hines said, “I do believe that we have made a difference in the communities that we were given responsibility to help.”
Changes in political life
Over those years, political life has changed drastically. Hines said, “There was a time when being an elected politician garnered some respect in the community. Those times are gone. It’s tough being an elected person, especially in this day of social media – that changed everything. Everybody has an opinion and they’re able to express it on Facebook, or whatever vehicle. And the anonymity that is available to people who want to do that often – or just the fact that they aren’t saying it to your face – emboldens people to be really harsh, it seems to me, when it comes to criticizing politicians.
“It’s a bit of a thankless role but for me that didn’t bother me because I knew and believed and still believe that things that we’ve done, and been able to do, will be of a lasting nature,” Hines said, citing improvements to Sherbrooke Village, the Country Harbour Ferry, the EHS station in Sherbrooke and the new school and bridge in Sheet Harbour.
MODG’s revenue challenge
Asked what he found most challenging, either at the local or political level of government, Hines said it was improving the revenue base in the MODG when he was first elected to council. In 1988, more than 93 per cent of revenue was coming from residential taxes, with very little coming in from commercial taxes; a far cry from the ratio a successful municipality would have on the books.
“The first order of business was to try and improve our (MODG) income level. That was a huge challenge; we worked at that constantly,” he said.
“One of the things that helped us, and it was controversial at the time, was to create the second largest second-generation landfill in the province, which today employees near 20 people and is quite successful from an economic perspective, but also from an environmental perspective,” Hines said.
The next piece in the financial puzzle for the MODG was Sable Gas.
“That was the game-changer for the MODG because of the revenue taxation that came into the municipality, as a result of the plant being located in Goldboro, and the assessed value of that plant, and the taxable nature of it which was all commercial,” said Hines, adding that the project, “Also gave us a lot more confidence that we could accomplish things, and we have been working in that direction ever since.”
Hines also highlighted the role of the fishery within the communities he has represented, not as a challenge, but as an industry that is the heartbeat of the area.
Promoting public service
Despite the challenges, Hines said he’d encourage people, especially young people, who have an interest in public service to consider running for office. He said it was important to have the support of family and a job that was flexible, as he did throughout his career in politics.
“If you’re inclined that way, and you feel that you have those supports … and you want to improve your community and see your community grow, which was what I was after, then you should give it a shot. Really, everything you go through in life has got thorns. If you have the inclination, I think you should certainly pursue it. And, if you try it and you get elected … you can always exit if it’s not for you, if the passion doesn’t catch fire,” he said.
Adjusting to post-political life
After just more than a month to acclimatize to life after politics, Hines was pleased to receive a letter of thanks for his service from the MODG. The letter read in part: “Lloyd your relentless dedication and unwavering leadership brought many great changes to our municipality … As clearly demonstrated time and time again, your leadership and long-standing commitment have well positioned the District of Guysborough for great things to come … sincere thanks and appreciation on behalf of council, staff, and the residents of the MODG…”
With a little more time on his hands, Hines is reading the latest book by Barack Obama that he received as a Christmas gift last year. He’s not sure what his next chapter will look like, but for the time being he said it was, “kind of nice to not have a lot of commitments.”