A record number of Black MLAs heading to the legislature

·3 min read

A record number of four Black MLAs have been elected to the Nova Scotia legislature.

For the Liberals, incumbent Tony Ince and newcomers Angela Simmonds and Ali Duale were elected in the 41st provincial election that saw Tim Houston’s PC’s win a majority government. NDP newcomer Suzy Hansen won in the riding of Halifax Needham.

A record total of 11 Black candidates ran for the three major parties in this election. Of those 11, at least three were guaranteed to lose.

The Examiner was first to highlight that for the first time in Nova Scotia election history, all the candidates in one riding — the Preston riding — were Black. Last night, Angela Simmonds won the riding against NDP candidate Colter Simmonds and PC candidate Archy Beals. Simmonds replaces Liberal Keith Colwell who announced before the election that he was stepping down.

Liberals and PCs ran Black candidates in the riding of Cole Harbour. Incumbent Tony Ince won against close second Darrell Johnson for the PCs. After an unsuccessful bid for the legislature in 2009, Ince was first elected in 2013 when he beat incumbent NDP premier, Darrell Dexter. This will be Ince’s third term in the legislature. He was one of only a handful of Liberal cabinet ministers to reoffer this election.

The riding of Halifax Armdale was up for grabs as Liberal cabinet minister Lena Metlege Diab announced she’d be stepping down. Somali-born Liberal candidate Ali Duale won last night in a five-way race. Duale emigrated as a refugee and has worked for the Halifax Regional Fire Department since 2004.

And for the NDP, Suzy Hansen won in the riding of Halifax Needham. She replaces former NDP MLA Lisa Roberts, who stepped down to run for the federal NDP in the upcoming federal election. Hansen was previously elected to the Halifax Regional School Board and served until it was dissolved in 2018.

Black candidates Lisa Coates for the PCs, Angela Downey for the NDP, and both Donalda MacIsaac in Sackville-Uniacke, and Tamara Tynes Powell for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River for the Liberals were unsuccessful in their respective bids last night.

Despite winning a majority government, the PCs failed to elect any Black candidates.

On July 30, Houston pledged that, if elected, a PC government would modify public schools' social studies curriculum to properly tell African Nova Scotian history.

Despite a provincial announcement of an equity assessment for Nova Scotia schools, Black parents and Black educators in the province argue that curriculum aside, Black representation among teachers in Nova Scotia is key.

Another key platform issue for Houston was his pledge to address and revamp mental health services in the province. Last October, Houston released a Universal Mental Health Care plan. It will be interesting to see what, if any, direct parallels the PCs make between racism in Nova Scotia and North America and any potential negative effect it has on the mental health of Black people and people of colour. Despite Houston’s Universal Mental Health Care plan being released in the immediate aftermath of the provincial and global Black Lives Matter movements, and in the wake of highly publicized racism toward the Sipekne’katik First Nation, terms like “racism,” “anti-Black racism,” “prejudice,” or “discrimination” do not appear in the document.

Around the time that Houston’s mental health plan was released last fall, then-premier, Stephen McNeil announced a hand-picked racial justice “design team” to recommend policy changes to address racism in the justice system. The Examiner’s Stephen Kimber and the province’s first Black Lieutenant Governor, Mayann Francis were critical of the plan. There have been no major media updates on the initiative since fall of 2020. It will be interesting to see how the initiative plays out and what updates will be forthcoming under a Progressive Conservative government.

Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Halifax Examiner

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