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NOVA SCOTIA CHAPTERPhoto courtesy of the Macleans.ca

 

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Maureen MacDonald retires from provincial politics after 18 years as MLA

 

First female finance minister appointed in N.S.

 

CBC News Apr 13, 2016 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/maureen-macdonald-politics-mla-legislature-minister-1.3534056

 

 

“MacDonald was a top-notch minister and her advice was gold" 

Opinion column by her legislative colleague Hon. Graham Steele

 

Maureen MacDonald was simply the best MLA I ever worked with.

 

 

 

There are four distinct parts to being an MLA: the legislative work, the constituency casework, the community building and the party work.

 

Most MLAs are good at one or two of those roles. Maureen did it all, and she did it well. That's rare.

 

Maureen will probably be remembered most for what she did as health minister. That's the focus of many of the remembrances that I've seen posted.

 

It's natural that people's memories would focus on that most public of roles, though it was only three years of the 18 years she served in the legislature. She led sterling policy initiatives on emergency care, mental health and pharmacare, to name only a few.

 

As I sat beside her in the legislature, I watched and admired how she handled tough, emotional issues like the call for funding for the Zamboni treatment for multiple sclerosis. She held her ground — in the face of withering political attacks — but with deep compassion for MS patients who were looking for hope.

 

I've said it before: being health minister is the toughest job in government, tougher than being premier. The number and complexity of health-care issues, and the number and ferocity of entrenched health-care interests, is fearsome.

 

I watched Maureen get ground down by the demands of being health minister. Here was a smart, strong, committed woman, and it wore her down.

 

Everything was a battle — everything, both inside and outside government.

 

Collaborative emergency centres are a public-policy jewel, but I'm not sure people properly appreciate how hard it was for Maureen to establish them and then win acceptance for them.

 

A health minister can only take on so many battles at once. I remember the premier asked her to do something — I don't even remember what it was, but it was something sensible though moderately difficult — and she just told him that she had enough battles on her hands and couldn't take on even one more.

 

If someone as capable as Maureen gets worn down in three years, what hope do others have who don't have a fraction of her capacity?

 

We need to face this problem if we want to preserve public health care. Half the cabinet should be health ministers, with one in charge and the rest associates. Instead, we expect one person to do it all and it's pretty much impossible.

 

After I left the cabinet and Maureen became Nova Scotia's first female finance minister, she joked with me that finance seemed like a holiday after health. Except she wasn't joking.

 

Maureen was a top-notch minister, but my admiration for her goes well beyond that brief phase of her political career. More than anything, Maureen had a deep analysis of how things work in our society.

 

In a profession marked by superficiality, she stood out. She was from very rural Antigonish County, but she also knew the city.

 

Few people understood Nova Scotia's urban-rural divide like she did. She was an academic with her feet planted firmly in the reality of the street.

 

She could lay bare the workings of Nova Scotia like a watchmaker taking apart a timepiece. She was passionate about social justice and practical about what it would take to get there. It was a beautiful thing to listen to her.

 

I'll also remember Maureen for the quiet conversations we had as we sat side-by-side in the legislature. There were long stretches of time-filling silliness going on around us, so we talked a lot — about what was going right, what was going wrong, what was going on in the caucus and the cabinet, and the latest tussle with the premier's office.

 

She was frustrated at times, but she was fundamentally sensible and practical. Her advice was gold.

 

Maureen was, until yesterday, tied for top spot among sitting members for continuous service in the house. She put her heart and soul into those 18 years, not to mention her health.

 

She has earned some rest. She probably didn't accomplish as much as she might have hoped when she started, but that's true of just about everybody who walks through those doors. She accomplished plenty and we need more like her.

 

Halifax Chronicle Herald, Maureen MacDonald was someone to count on

 

April 13, 2016  http://thechronicleherald.ca/editorials/1356690-editorial-maureen-macdonald-was-someone-to-count-on

Bob Stanfield is widely regarded as the greatest Nova Scotia prime minister Canada never had.

 

And you could make a good case that Maureen MacDonald, who retired as an MLA on Tuesday, was greatest party leader that Nova Scotia New Democrats never had.

 

Yes, the stalwart 18-year MLA for Needham, who set a standard of representation in that North End Halifax community that will be hard to match, has served as interim leader since the party’s crushing election loss in 2013.

 

But that’s been a rescue-worker’s job rather than one of taking command of a party in reasonable shape and having the thrill of steering it toward a chance at achieving things you want to accomplish in office.

 

After the 2013 debacle, the party needed a smart, strong, responsible leader who could step in immediately to keep it functioning and provide a credible opposition in the House, with no prospect of leading a rebuilt, competitive team in another election. The ever-dependable Ms. MacDonald was the obvious go-to choice. And it’s a reflection of her sense of service, responsibility and loyalty that she took it on and worked flat-out to do it well.

 

But that’s the story of her political life. She is someone people can count on. Constituents could count on her to show up and listen at community meetings on homelessness or housing and to speak for those struggling to get by. Premier Darrell Dexter counted on her to take on the toughest job in government — health minister — and she did it well, introducing a rare successful frontline reform with collaborative care centres and creating a much-needed mental health and addiction strategy. She gave up this job she loved when a solid minister was needed to fill Graham Steele’s departure from Finance. Again, she was a capable and hardworking finance minister.

 

A former social worker and professor of social policy and community development, Maureen MacDonald channelled her caring and idealism into the hard, practical work of creating more effective health and social services. She has set a fine example of public service and will be missed.

 

 

42nd General Election, 2015

Bernadette Jordan Nova Scotia

 


 

 

Bernadette Jordan was elected for the Liberals in the riding of South Shore - St. Margarets. She is the only woman to hold one of Nova Scotia's 11 federal districts.

 

 

 

 

Five other women stood as candidates

Megan Leslie, NDP candidate elected Halifax. Incumbent MP, first elected in 2008. Defeated.

Joanne Hussey, NDP candidate for Halifax West.

Monika Dutt, NDP candidate for Sydney - Victoria.

Wendy Robinson, NDP candidate for Cumberland - Colchester.

Michelle Smith, NDP candidate for Cape Breton - Canso.

 

Nova Scotia House of Assembly

 A record number of women, 15 sit in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, but still only make up 29% of the 51-seat legislature. The current women members are:

 

Liberal caucus, 10 women / 34 seats

Diana Whalen, Hon. (Clayton Park West).

Karen Casey, Hon. (Colchester North).

Kelly Regan, Hon. (Bedford)

Joanne Bernard, Hon. (Dartmouth North)

Lena Diab, Hon. (Armdale)

Patricia Arab (Fairview – Clayton Park)

Joyce Treen (Cole Harbour – Eastern Passage)

Margaret Miller (Hants East)

Pamela Eyking (Victoria- The Lakes)

Suzanne Lohnes-Croft (Lunenburg)

 

New Democratic Party caucus: 4 women /  7 seats

Maureen MacDonald, Hon. and interim leader (Halifax Needham),

Denise Peterson-Rafuse, Hon. (Chester – St. Margaret’s)

Lenore Zann (Truro – Bible Hill).

Marian Mancini (Dartmouth South), by-election 2015

 

Progressive Conservative caucus, 1 woman / 10 seats

Karla MacFarlane (Pictou West)

 

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A RECORD FIVE WOMEN IN CABINET

Halifax Chronicle Herald,DAVID JACKSON PROVINCIAL REPORTER with Selena Ross staff reporter

October 22, 2013

 

New Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard, one of a record five women in cabinet, will bring a unique perspective to the post. Fifteen years ago, she was a client of the department, a single mother on income assistance.

 

On Tuesday, she said becoming the minister hasn’t really sunk in yet, but she did have a little bit of time to reflect on the accomplishment with son Taylor, now 23, at her side. “He’s the one that’s been on this whole journey with me,” she said after cabinet’s swearing-in on Tuesday. “It was him that made the sacrifices as a young boy when I was in university and on social assistance for nine years. You know, it was the food bank that we went to, it was the saying no to the family trips, it was no to the toys, it was ‘We can’t go, I have to study.’ “I worked hard and I persevered and I worked the system, at that time, that didn’t make me feel that I could get beyond where (I was).”

 

Bernard said all those experiences come with her, as well as what she encountered as the executive director of an organization “poorly funded” by the department. She has been at Alice Housing, a non-profit organization that connects women and children leaving abusive families with temporary housing.

 

Bernard, who won the Dartmouth North seat, said she’ll still be able to make tough decisions as minister but also wants to impart a sense of empowerment. “If I do anything well in this role, it will be to show people that despite challenges, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. 

 

“The other mantra that I want to bring with me is that people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of what their stake in life is at that moment in time. And that wasn’t always afforded to me when I was on income assistance, but it’s certainly going to be part of the culture that I bring to (the Community Services Department).”

Bernard’s new cabinet colleagues include veteran MLAs Diana Whalen, the new finance minister and first female deputy premier; Karen Casey, the minister of education and early childhood development; Kelly Regan, in charge of labour and advanced education and the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and political newcomer Lena Diab, the province’s first female attorney general and justice minister. 

 

The outgoing NDP government had four female ministers, the previous high for the province. Whalen, first elected in 2003, said she spent six years as the lone woman in the Liberal caucus and is delighted that she’s now one of 10, and one of five in cabinet. “I think it’s a great day for women in leadership roles, I really do,” Whalen said. “It signals for young women, and for all women, really, in whatever roles they’re playing, that they, too, can step up.”

 

Nova Scotia has made strides in the past decade, said Dalhousie political science professor Louise Carbert. One female minister in 2003 became three in 2006, then four. Now, women make up 31 per cent of cabinet, which is average across Canada, she said. The progress has much to do with the number of women running for office, Carbert said. “We (formerly) had so few women elected in the governing caucus that almost every woman in caucus was appointed to cabinet,” she said. Another change is in the portfolios women get, Carbert said. At one time, Status of Women was the typical job. In this cabinet, women have “some of the most powerful portfolios,” she said.

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Women candidates in the 2013 Nova Scotia election:

Is the NDP “contagion from the left” all sneezed out?

Delivered on CBC Radio 1, October 1 2013. Louise Carbert

 

The current Nova Scotia election campaign marks a watershed event of sorts for women candidates. For the first time in several decades the NDP has to share top billing in the recruitment of women. This development goes against longstanding trends that extend far beyond Nova Scotia.

Generally speaking, in democratic regimes throughout the world, left-wing parties have nominated and elected more women candidates than the other parties, beginning in Europe in the 1950s. Eventually the centre / right parties followed suit.

 

Political scientists described this pattern using the colourful term “contagion from the left.” It caricatures the centre / right parties as copying leftist policies and practises – grudgingly – in order to defend their vote share.

 

This same pattern has held in Nova Scotia, where the NDP’s streak of nominating more women candidates than the other parties traces back at least to 1981. Over time the other parties followed suit, and the number of women elected to the House of Assembly has risen. In comparison with other provinces, we have moved from near the bottom of the pack ten years ago to the middle, with 24% women at dissolution of the last session.

 

Much of the credit goes to the New Democrats for leading the way. In 1988, under the leadership of Alexa McDonough, they nominated 23 women candidates (or 44% of the slate) – a record that stands to this day. When the NDP faced the real prospect of forming the government in the 2009 election, they might understandably have shifted women’s candidacy to the back burner.

 

They did not. In 2009 they nominated 17 women, or 33% of their candidate slate. In that context, the current tally of just twelve women candidates, or 24% of the NDP slate, seems a bit underwhelming. 

 

If the NDP slips, does that mean that the province falls too? No, it doesn’t, thanks to “contagion from the left.”

 

The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have caught the bug, as both parties have nominated “personal-best” numbers of women candidates for the current campaign. In fact the Liberals have caught up to the NDP by nominating twelve women candidates.

 

The Progressive Conservatives are only one behind, with eleven.

 

As a result, the number of women elected on October 8 is not expected to depend much on which party wins the most seats.

 

On a more discouraging note, there are still too few women running as candidates overall. Prospects for progress depend on parties to nominate women candidates in proportions above – not equal to – the level sitting in the House.

 

Now that the contagion from the left for nominating women has sneezed itself out for the time being, the path for the future is open. If history were to repeat itself, the NDP might catch a renewed fever and then pass the bug along to the other parties. A more disappointing possibility would be for all three parties to rest on their laurels, having achieved a modicum of respectability.

 

There is also a third possibility. Perhaps the goal of moving toward gender parity in politics is beginning to go mainstream. If so, recruiting more women candidates would no longer be a contagious disease – an unwanted practise that must be mimicked – but rather a core element of every party’s identity. Now, that would be progress.

 

Louise Carbert is Associate Professor of Political Science at Dalhousie University. She is the author (with Naomi Black) of “Electoral breakthrough: Women in Nova Scotia politics” and “Doing the work of representation, Nova Scotia style,” both published in 2013. She served on the 2012 Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Nova Scotia.

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Equal Voice Nova Scotia welcomed Jane Taber to Halifax on March 28, 2012. 

  

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Thanks also to Status of Women Canada for providing funding to our "Creating the Conditions for Women's Electoral Success" Pilot Project.