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In the News:

PC Leadership features two women

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin wants party to do something it never has before — pick a woman as leader

A rookie MLA whose entire political career is less than a year old is hoping Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party members are looking for someone new and different in choosing a successor to Jamie Baillie.

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin wants those who will choose the next party leader to do something they have never done before — pick a woman.

"Because I'm the right woman," she said with a laugh when asked why the party should choose a woman as its next leader. "I'm ready to be elected. I'm ready to be the leader of the party and premier of Nova Scotia."

In announcing her candidacy, Smith-McCrossin joins MLAs Tim Houston and John Lohr, along with Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke, in vying for the party's top job in the wake of Baillie's forced resignation last month.

None has filed nomination papers because the official race has yet to get underway. The party is still working on leadership rules, which may be ready for release at the party's annual general meeting this weekend in Halifax.

In business in Amherst

Smith-McCrossin trained as a nurse and is best known in Amherst, where she lives with her physician husband Murray and the youngest of their four children.

Until a few weeks ago, Smith-McCrossin owned three businesses in Amherst through a parent company, East Coast Holistic Health Ltd. — Amherst Medical Esthetics, Damaris Spa and Wellness Centre and Manasseh Local and Organic Food.


Smith-McCrossin announces her candidacy in the PC leadership race surrounded by family in the waiting room of the clinic she founded in 2002. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

She sold all three in anticipation of the workload and long hours she expects to put into running for the party's top job.

She announced her candidacy in the waiting room of the clinic she founded 16 years ago. More than 50 family, friends and supporters packed into an area in front of a podium with banners on either side of Smith-McCrossin, who told the gathering her lack of political experience was a plus, not a minus.

"I am new. I'm new to politics. I believe that is a strength. I have no baggage," she said. "I'm ready. I'm 48 years old. I've got the energy, the ideas, the passion and I want to take Nova Scotia forward."

Victory in first run

The party considered her a high-profile candidate in the last election where she ran next door to then-party leader Baillie, in Cumberland North. She cruised to victory last May, winning 51 per cent of the vote in her first attempt at elected office. Liberal incumbent Terry Farrell finished second, more than 1,000 votes behind.

It was an impressive rookie win, but winning over rank-and-file Tories will be a tougher challenge given she does not have the history, name recognition or caucus support of her rivals.

"I don't want to say anything negative about those three candidates," said Smith-McCrossin. "I do think I'm the right choice.

"I think Nova Scotia, the PC Party of Nova Scotia, is ready to elect a female, a woman leader. It's the right time for the party and it's the right time for the province."

Despite the obvious difference between her and her rivals, Smith-McCrossin doesn't want gender to be the only reason people vote for her.

"I've always worked side by side with the men on the farm and the same work, same as my sister, and I think because of that training I don't think of jobs in terms of gender," she said.

"I've never looked at a job and thought, 'Oh, I can or can't do because I'm a female.' I've always looked at a job and looked at, do I have the strength and abilities to do that job? It's never been based on gender for me."

'It's often about opportunity'

Nova Scotia's New Democratic Party has been led twice by women. Alexa McDonough was leader from 1980 to 1994 and Helen MacDonald led the party for nine months starting in July 2000.

The closest the Liberals have come to electing a woman to lead them was in 2007, when former finance minister Diana Whalen finished just 68 votes behind Stephen McNeil in that leadership race.

Smith-McCrossin said she decided to run for the PC leadership now, instead of later, because the job is open now.

"To be successful it's often about opportunity, so when an opportunity arises you need to take it then 'cause it may not come again," she said.

"In my businesses they all started, three of them started with an idea and I created a plan and I built it," she said. "I like projects and I look at Nova Scotia as my next project."  

One-time party president Scott Armstrong, who will likely co-chair Smith-McCrossin's campaign bid, said party members will support her because she is a woman but not only because of her gender.

"Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin isn't running because she's a woman," he said. "She's a woman who has great ability and great talent and would be a great leader for the province. That's why I'm supporting her."

Former Nova Scotia premier Roger Bacon has also endorsed Smith-McCrossin. Bacon served as premier for about five months, roughly half the time Smith-McCrossin has been an MLA.


Congratulations to all the women running in the 40th Nova Scotia provincial election!

Women to make up one-third of Nova Scotia Legislature!

Congratulations to the 17 women elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature!






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

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

Lenore Zann (Truro – Bible Hill).

Marian Mancini (Dartmouth South), by-election 2015

Lisa Roberts, (Halifax Needham), by-election 2016.

Progressive Conservative caucus, 1 woman / 10 seats

Karla MacFarlane (Pictou West)

42nd General Election, 2015

Bernadette Jordan Nova Scotia




Bernadette Jordan was elected for the Liberals in 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.

Daughters of the Vote celebrate women in leadership 

Communications NS January 12, 2017

More than 30 young women from across the province came together at Province House Jan. 12, to celebrate women in leadership. The Daughters of the Vote event is an initiative by Equal Voice to mark the 100-year anniversary of women’s enfranchisement in Canada.

"Government has demonstrated strong leadership in building gender equity through the appointment of women in key leadership positions," said Joanne Bernard, Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act. "Sixty per cent of senior leadership positions in government are held by women, and we now have the most women in cabinet in Nova Scotia's history.

"The women from across the province that applied to be part of Daughters of the Vote represent the next wave of women that will someday take the province by storm, not just by leading in government, but in all sectors."

"Be the Peace Institute is thrilled to be part of this important day for young women in Nova Scotia and to engage with young women who care enough to put their names forward to be a part of this and be engaged in the political process," said Sue Bookchin, project co-coordinator of Be the Peace. 

"This gives us a lot of hope for the future. We are grateful to Equal Voice Canada for thinking of this and making it available to young women across Canada. It was a stroke of brilliance."

Equal Voice invited women from the ages of 18-to-23 to apply for Daughters of the Vote. One woman from every federal riding in Canada will represent their communities by taking a seat in Parliament in Ottawa on International Women’s Day, March 8. 

More than 60 women from Nova Scotia applied for the opportunity. For more information about Daughters of the Vote, go to www.daughtersofthevote.ca.

Maureen MacDonald retires from provincial politics after 18 years as MLA


First female finance minister appointed in N.S.



“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  

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.


A Record Five Women in Cabinet

Halifax Chronicle Herald, David Jackson with Selena Ross 22 Oct 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.

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