Now that Nova Scotia’s Premier has announced his departure, names getting tossed into the ring for the next Nova Scotia election include those like Zach, Geoff and Sean. But what if we brought a new set of names to the list? The Amys, the Megans, even a Karen or two?
People who aren't men who have worked behind the scenes in our province for years, decades even, without ever getting put on a list of “potential leaders.” They come from backgrounds of activism, environmentalism, business and politics. They’ve changed laws, protested injustices, and led change—yet most have been overlooked when it comes to brainstorming who should run for public office.
There's good reason for the women on this list to not want to run for public office as they fight against the very systems politicians traditionally uphold, but we want to recognize them as more than capable of beginning to change those systems from the inside. So, in the hopes of manifesting some more non-old-white-guys in the legislature, we’re putting this out into the world.
Bernard was the first openly gay woman to be elected to Nova Scotia’s legislature as Liberal MLA for Dartmouth North from 2013 to 2017. Currently, she’s the President and CEO of Easter Seals Nova Scotia. Last week, Bernard told CBC she was considering putting her name forward for the Liberal nomination.
Lena Metlege Diab
current portfolios include Immigration and Acadian Affairs and Francophonie, and is active in the community as president of the Canadian Lebanese Society, receiving both the Diamond Jubilee Medal and Nova Scotia Provincial Volunteer Award in 2013. She also confirmed to CBC last week that she’s likely in the running for the Liberal top spot.
Jones is an African Nova Scotian leader and activist originally from Truro. Sister of Rocky Jones, her family is a long line of activists. She was the first Black woman to become an executive with the Canadian Labour Congress as well as the first African Canadian woman to run in a federal election when she ran for the NDP in 1993. She is currently chair of the Global African Congress Nova Scotia Chapter.
A former NDP MP for Halifax, Leslie is now the president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada. Originally from Ontario, Leslie studied law at Dalhousie and worked for Legal Aid before getting into politics, and was the NDP’s health critic and environment critic, and then deputy leader until 2015. She has been outspoken about issues like reducing poverty and 2SLGBTQ+ rights.
Macdonald is a young African Nova Scotian activist who works closely with community organizations like The Youth Project and iMOVe. She’s the founder of The Magic Project, Game Changers 902, was ambassador for Halifax Pride 2020, and currently works with South House in Halifax as an outreach coordinator.
Fuller is the former senior marine conservation coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax and now works with the Deep Sea Conservation Commission and Oceans North to shape ocean conservation policy like the new Canadian Fisheries Act. She has a PhD from Dalhousie.
environmental racism, mental health of African Nova Scotian women, and more. Her 2018 book There’s Something in The Water was made into a film that's now on Netflix, which she also co-produced.
Siciliano has been Halifax’s public safety advisor since 2018, moving here from Thunder Bay where she worked as a researcher for the Anti-Racism & Respect Advisory Committee. She has a master’s in public policy from Concordia, and a PhD in urban geography from U of T, and also teaches in the department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Saint Mary’s University.
As HRM’s program manager of energy and environment, Miedema is leading the way on HalifACT 2020, the plan to change the city for the better environment-wise. She’s got an education from Queen’s and Dalhousie, 10 years experience handling a rapidly expanding and urgently calling portfolio for the largest city in the Maritimes, and has taught city councillors a thing or two about the environment.
Cooper holds many titles: historian, Dalhousie professor, Halifax’s poet laureate, author. She pushed Dalhousie to create their minor in African diaspora studies, and has written about police brutality, slavery in Canada, and African Canadian women’s history.
A Liberal MP who works in Ottawa from the riding of Cumberland-Colchester, Zann was formerly NDP but crossed the floor in 2019. Earlier this year she took a stance on environmental racism by introducing Bill 111, the Environmental Racism Protection Act.
Luther became CEO of Halifax Partnership just over a year ago in June 2019. Before that, she worked for seven years as president of EduNova, and was key to developing the Study and Stay program that keeps international students in the province. Before that, she worked for Nova Scotia Business Inc. and Luther has an MBA from SMU.
Currently the president and CEO of Develop Nova Scotia (previously the Waterfront Development Corporation), Angel has over two decades experience working in public planning and infrastructure. She also sits on the board of United Way Halifax and previously was chair of both Discover Halifax and the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.
Chender is currently an NDP MLA for Dartmouth South, but that doesn’t mean she can’t cross the floor for that nomination ballot. She worked as a lawyer before getting into politics and was first elected in 2017.
Wanda Thomas Bernard
Thomas Bernard became the first AfricanDalhousie University’s first African Nova Scotian tenure-track professor in the ’90s, and was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2014.
Aoife Mac Namara
The recently-ousted president of NSCAD University
Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute and has over 30 years of experience in the education field. Previously, Parris worked as a consultant for the provincial Department of Justice, and served as a manager for African Nova Scotian Affairs for HRM. She has her masters degree from MSVU, where she also is an instructor.
two portfolios as the minister of Internal Services and of Communications Nova Scotia. She’s originally from Halifax, working as a teacher before joining politics. She’s been involved in initiatives like Daughters of the Vote and volunteers with the IWK and Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as in the Lebanese community.
Parsons is CEO and a founding member of the Women’s United Association, helping diverse women build careers in trades and technology. Living in Hubbards, she was general manager of HRDA Enterprises, and is currently on the board of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, on the steering committee of the Irving Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence, is member of the Canadian Women’s Foundation Economic Development Advisory Committee, and a past member of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
Halifax Regional Council’s mic-dropping deputy mayor, Lisa Blackburn has been councillor for District 14 Beaverbank for four years. The former dude-rock radio host has been one of just two women on Halifax’s council for the last four years and sits on the Halifax Public Libraries board of directors. She's known for raising her voice on issues she cares about—while leaving the faffing about to the other councillors.
Watts was the HRM District 8 Peninsula North councillor until 2016. After leaving council she became the CEO of ISANS, the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia in 2018. She has a Masters Degree in Urban Planning from Dalhousie University.
deputy minister of justice for the province of Nova Scotia.
minister of finance, minister of justice and deputy premier.
In 2019, Gilbert was arrested for Alton Gas in Stewiacke. The Mi’kmaq grandmother is a lifelong water protector and land rights advocate who once told off Trudeau at a campaign rally, and has spoken out about the epidemic of MMIW and how residential schools impacted her family.
Oldfield was the president and CEO of Halifax Port Authority for 17 years, departing last year. When she began the job in 2002was named by the Globe and Mail as one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40. And she’s not new to politics as she was chief of staff for Conservative Premier John Hamm before that. She’s currently chair of the board at Saint Mary’s University and past chair of the International Women’s Forum of Canada.
King's, MSVU and SMU, and was awarded the Rocky Jones Human Rights Award in 2016 for her work.
SideDoor, an innovative booking platform for musicians. The Dartmouthian studied journalism at King’s, and arts at Queen’s before starting her own businesses. Make that two businesses, as she’s also the founder of house concert venue The Syrup Factory, which has hosted artists like Jenn Grant and In-Flight Safety. She’s also served as vice-chair of HRM’s advisory committee for arts and culture.
HRM Poet Laureate on the list, Thomas is a Mi’kmaw advocate and author who published her first book last year. She’s got a master’s in social anthropology from Dalhousie and just finished a two-year stint with the NS government, returning this fall to a job as an Indigenous student services advisor at NSCC. Thomas is also credited with changing the minds of some HRM councillors on the Cornwallis statue debate.
Editor's note: If you think this list is missing someone let us know in the comments.