MMeet the three new MPs who have the word “Halifax” in their job titles. Ali Duale is the new MP for Halifax Armdale, Suzy Hansen represents Halifax Needham and Lisa Lachance is the MP for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island. They officially start their new job with a swearing-in ceremony Monday afternoon August 30.
Halifax metropolitan ridings highlight the stark political contrast between urban center Nova Scotia, which elected most of the Liberal and NDP candidates on August 17, and the rest of the province, which was struck by one blue wave. Tim Houston’s Progressive Conservatives won a majority government in the election, winning 31 of 55 seats across the province. But even though this is a new government, most of the MPs entering the legislature are seasoned politicians who have been re-elected. Premier-designate Houston will make his debut as prime minister when he and the cabinet are sworn in at their own ceremony Tuesday, yet he has been a provincial deputy for the rural region of Pictou-Est since 2013.
Meanwhile, in the very heart of the province’s urban core, three of the four MLAs serving the Halifax Peninsula are recruits. (NDP Leader Gary Burrill in Halifax Chebucto is the only incumbent from the peninsula to return to the Legislature.)
For Suzy Hansen, a longtime northern resident and NDP supporter, he “felt right” to nominate her name in the Halifax constituency Needham when outgoing NDP MP Lisa Roberts decided to leave provincial politics and run for the federal riding of Halifax.
“It was obvious, and it seemed like the right time. For someone who always guesses things, when I propose my name to run, it makes me feel good. I felt it was the next chapter of my life, ”said Hansen, when she was reached by phone while camping with her children.
“You obviously have no guarantee of winning anything… but I felt I could do a lot of people a favor if I showed up.” Hansen was elected a member of the Halifax Regional School Board in 2016 and works with Phoenix Youth Programs.
Tackling the housing crisis and caring for Nova Scotia’s aging population are the top two priorities on her list. “Housing is number one, whether it’s rent control or soaring house prices. Community members who have lived here their entire lives can’t even afford to buy a house, I’m one of them, ”she says.
When it comes to older people, “they’re not valued, in my opinion,” says Hansen. “We have elderly people who have given their lives, who have done so much and who are not living in a comfortable state. ”
Hansen defeated Needham finalist Colin Coady, a Liberal, on August 17 by a substantial 1,900 votes. The northern riding has been a stronghold of the NDP since 1998.
Hansen is one of the four Black MPs in the new legislature, a record for Nova Scotia. Tony Ince, who had been Liberal Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs when the election was called, was the only black MP in the last sitting of the legislature. Ince returns as MP for Cole Harbor and will be joined by Hansen, Duale and new MP Angela Simmonds, who won Preston for the Liberals. Before this election, there had only ever been five black MPs elected.
Joining the legislature with a majority PC government, Hansen says she “can work with anyone” and is ready to get down to business.
“I can see us coming together and doing what’s right for our province. And if not, I’m not afraid to ask questions and criticize things, ”she says.
THEisa Lachance, Hansen’s NDP colleague, is just as eager to get down to business. Housing is at the heart of their concerns, as Lachance says rent control has been the most talked about issue at the gates throughout the campaign.
“I am very concerned about the way forward on housing with the Prime Minister designate in terms of ending rent controls,” they said in an interview. “Rent control is really only the first step in preventing the crisis from getting worse, and then you have to continue working on the housing supply side.”
Health is also a priority for Lachance, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in health at Dalhousie University. Their research focuses on the potential for collaboration between mental health services and the nonprofit sector serving youth to improve youth mental health. They have previously worked for the federal government on international politics, finance and human rights.
Lachance, who is not binary and uses both them and her pronouns, is one of the few openly gay politicians to win a Canadian election. Uzoma Asagwara, an MP from Manitoba, is probably the first at the provincial level. They were elected in 2019.
“It’s important and a lot of time,” for non-binary and trans representation in politics, says Lachance. “The performance wasn’t at all why I ran, but I think it’s an important element. ”
Lachance beat Liberal Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis by around 450 votes. Kousoulis, who represented the southern constituency of the Halifax Citadel and Sable Island since 2013, was a finalist for Prime Minister Iain Rankin in the winter leadership race.
The third new face among Peninsula MPs is Ali Duale, a firefighter who won under the Liberal banner in Armdale, the region connecting the peninsula to the mainland. Duale and his wife fled Somalia in 1991, then spent seven years in a Kenyan refugee camp before arriving in Canada. Duale is the father of eight children and works in the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service.
When reached on the phone by The Coast, Duale had just returned to the Halifax Fire Hall on University Avenue on his last day on the job as a firefighter. He spent the day reacting to the bizarre situation in Little Albro Lake where a theft suspect dived into the weed-filled water in Dartmouth. The suspect fled the police into the water as the police pursued him in a pedal boat, canoe and paddle board; the low-speed chase ended when the suspect was recovered with the help of the fire department.
“I’ve been in this position for 17 years, and a day like this is how I’m going to end my career?” Duale said laughing.
Duale’s community involvement includes membership on the Maritime Muslim Academy Board of Directors and the basketball and swimming programs he has coordinated for the children of HRM. He gives the children in these programs the inspiration to get into politics. In addition to being one of the four black members of the Legislative Assembly, Duale is the representative of Nova Scotia first muslim deputy.
Duale says he was also encouraged to run for office by Liberal Leader Iain Rankin, whom he met following the murder of a Muslim family in London, ON.
“I have a wife and a daughter who wear scarves. It shook me. It showed me how some communities are so vulnerable. When this happened I spoke to the Prime Minister, he was there for solidarity, ”said Duale. “In this discussion, he told me that I had to be involved and sit down at the table.”
The firefighter edged NDP candidate Julie Melanson by around 450 votes. The Armdale constituency had been owned by Liberal MP Lena Metlege Diab since 2013. Like Lisa Roberts, Metlege Diab retired from the provincial seat to run for federal politics – in the case of Metlege Diab as Liberal candidate in Halifax West
Legislative recruits from downtown are joined by two other new faces among HRM MPs, with the election of lawyer Angela Simmonds in Preston and former City Councilor Lorelei Nicoll in the new constituency of Cole Harbor- Dartmouth. Nicoll won under the Liberal banner by a margin of over 1,000 votes.
There were three black contenders in Preston this year — Liberal Simmonds defeated Colter Simmonds of the NDP, founder of the We Will Win Youth Association, and PC Archy Beals — which would be the first time a New Brunswick riding. Scotland has a whole Black Slate of candidates.