Nova Scotia

Cabinet minister blames election loss on NDP 'puppies and rainbows' promise

The former Nova Scotia Liberal community services minister and MLA for Dartmouth North is blaming her election defeat Tuesday, in part, what she calls "false hope" offered by the NDP.

Defeated Liberal MLA says the party, platform and leader also contributed to her loss

Liberal MLA and cabinet minister Joanne Bernard moved out of her constituency office on Thursday. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Former Nova Scotia community services minister and Liberal MLA for Dartmouth North, Joanne Bernard, is blaming her election defeat Tuesday, in part, on what she calls "false hope" offered by the NDP.

"When NDP candidates are at the door, they're talking to people who may be struggling — the promise of puppies and rainbows resonates," Bernard said in an interview with CBC after packing up her constituency office on Thursday.

Bernard was referring to the NDP's promise of a $15 an hour minimum wage among its social policy pledges to help pull people out of poverty.

Lost in a 'landslide'

The NDP's Susan Leblanc knocked out the incumbent — one of two defeated cabinet ministers — by 325 votes. Bernard said that's a "landslide" in a working-class riding with low voter turnout.

Bernard said her re-election bid also suffered because of the same factors that propelled her to victory when she was a rookie politician: the Liberal Party, its platform, and its leader, she said.

"In 2013 I didn't win by myself and certainly in 2017 I didn't lose by myself," said Bernard.

The leader factor

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil's name came up at doorsteps with both positive and negative reviews. Bernard said some praised his style and tenacity in standing up to public sector unions.

Others criticized him for not providing higher raises or negotiating in good faith with the public service workers, she said.

Bernard, who was on welfare in the late 1990s after her marriage ended, brushed off criticism that she didn't go far enough to improve the lot of people living on low income. She said almost all of her constituency work was working on community service files.

'I've done more than any other minister'

She said she was only part-way through her goal of department reforms which include the standardized household income assistance rate.

"Oddly enough is that the praise that I get is that I've done more than any other minister in the history of the province," she said.

Bernard hasn't ruled out another run at elected office.

Death threats, homophobia and fat-shaming

For now, she's looking forward to private life with her family.

"I will not miss death threats, homophobia, misogyny, fat-shaming or anything else that comes across as bullying. My family certainly won't miss that," said Bernard. 

About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.

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