Vallery residents express surprise, support for Scott Brison's decision not to reoffer

People in Scott Brison's riding of Kings-Hants reacted with surprise to news the longtime politician won't reoffer in the next federal election, but lauded what he's done for the area since 1997.

Sue Rawlins said Brison is well respected and will be "very, very missed."

"He's done a lot for the area and for the people of this area," she said on Main Street in Wolfville.

Rawlins described Brison as a compassionate representative who treated everyone the same, regardless of their background.

"He always had an open heart and he listened. A lot of people don't listen — they hear, but they don't listen. He was very good that way."

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Brison announced Thursday he was stepping down as Treasury Board president and wouldn't run in the next election. He's held the seat since 1997, when he was elected as a member of the Progressive Conservatives. Brison crossed the floor to the Liberals in 2003.

He said Thursday a driving force for his decision was to be able to spend more time with his husband, Max, and their young twin daughters, Claire and Rose.

Sandra Anderson said she was happy to learn of Brison's decision because it would mean he'd be able to focus more on his family. Anderson said Brison "did right" by the riding.

"He did good for the valley, for sure," she said.

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"I'm glad for him if he's got other things in the future," said Thomas Leeman.

"I wish him all the best."

Leeman said Brison was an excellent representative who was easy to talk to anytime he had an issue. He's had "only good experiences" with the MP, he said.

Efforts to remove barriers

In 2002, Brison became the first openly gay federal cabinet minister. In an interview Thursday, Brison said he hoped his decision to come out and "be open and honest about who I am as a person" might have been able to help people in the LGBTQ2 community and remove barriers.

"When I first got elected in 1997, federal public servants did not have same sex pension benefits," he said in an interview Thursday.

"I remember those debates in the late '90s. I remember the same sex marriage debate and being part of a cabinet that actually brought in equal marriage in 2005."

Making it easier for people to be accepted

Kentville resident Tim Hughes, who has volunteered with the queer and trans community in the Annapolis Valley, said there is always value in seeing gay people living their authentic selves in public.

"This is especially true in communities, such as those in the riding of Kings-Hants, where positive representation of marginalized populations may have been, or be, minimal, and the negative experiences of being out as a gay person can be anything from unfavourable to violent," Hughes said in an email.

"Of course homophobia hasn't been eradicated. And queer and trans people of colour generally still don't hold the same privilege afforded white cis-gender gay men, (of which I am one.) But I would like to think that Scott's public persona made it easier for gay folk to be more visible and accepted within their own communities."