Nova Scotia

MLA Angela Simmonds launches N.S. Liberal leadership bid

Preston MLA Angela Simmonds wants to be the next leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party. The lawyer-turned-politician made the announcement Friday.

Simmonds says the party must do a better job engaging with the public

Preston MLA Angela Simmonds is the first person to announce their candidacy to be the next leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party. (Submitted by Angela Simmonds)

Preston MLA Angela Simmonds wants to be the next leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.

The lawyer-turned-politician made the announcement Friday.

She is the first person to officially declare an intention to seek the party's top job following the announcement last month by Iain Rankin that he will step down as leader.

"One thing I'm confident about is I'm here to elevate folks, and I want to earn the vote and earn people's respect and I think I can do that," she said in an interview.

Simmonds was elected in the re-established district of Preston last summer, one of the few highlights for the Liberals in an election that saw the party lose government after eight years in power.

A need to listen and engage

Getting the party back in government requires better communication and engagement with people, said Simmonds.

She believes that's what separated the Progressive Conservatives from the Liberals in the last election as the Tories rode a campaign focused almost entirely on health care to a majority government.

"What the PCs did was have a better understanding and listen to the real issues that were concerning Nova Scotians," she said. "And, so, that's what we need to do.

"You know, health care was on the top of minds and the PCs built that relationship to make people feel like they were being heard. And I would say that needs to be the direction for us, is to be listening and getting more people engaged."

Engaging with people will help inform the path her campaign takes.

Simmonds said health care is a subject she'll be discussing, as well as climate change and how to make life more affordable. But she said she expects things to evolve as the process plays out.

The point of the leadership campaign is to talk to people, hear about what matters to them and work on renewal of the party by attracting new members, said Simmonds.

"By doing that, that will help shape what we need to do."

Leadership qualities

Simmonds may be a newcomer to politics, but she points to her resumé and background as proof of her ability to lead and understand the challenges people face.

The mother of three had her first child at 18 and worked in small business until eventually returning to school to get her law degree while working full time.

She went on to work for Nova Scotia Legal Aid, oversaw equity initiatives at the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society and, at the time she entered politics, was the executive director of the Land Titles Initiative — a provincial government program that helps people in historic Black communities get legal title to their land. 

"I understand how to move things forward and that's what it takes to be a leader," said Simmonds.

"It doesn't necessarily take years of being an elected MLA. I think that there is a great tremendous benefit to [having] experience in life and being able to relate to Nova Scotians."

Potential firsts

Were she to win, Simmonds would become the first female leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and the first Black leader of a major provincial political party in the province. Both firsts would send a powerful message, she said.

"It's hopeful," Simmonds said. "It expresses that we are making history and that change is possible and that change for the better is possible.

"Being a woman, a woman of colour, will open up doors and I think that's what I want to do, is inspire others — all Nova Scotians, all different communities — to feel like they, too, can do this and be part of a movement."

The deadline for candidates to join the race is March 21. Party members will elect their next leader on July 9.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Being Black in Canada highlights stories about Black Canadians. (CBC)

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