Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Disability rights advocates crash Rankin campaign event

In this instalment of the election notebook: Disability rights advocates crash a campaign event held by Liberal Leader Iain Rankin; Tory Leader Tim Houston promises tax credit for dog adoption.

Phasing out institutional housing is taking too long, say protesters

Welcome to CBC's Election Notebook, your source for regular updates and essential news from the campaign trail.

It's Day 24 of Nova Scotia's 31-day provincial election campaign.

About 15 supporters of the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia were waiting on the grass at Victoria Park in Halifax to meet Liberal Leader Iain Rankin as he got off his campaign bus on Sunday. They gathered around the podium carrying signs that read "No more warehousing," and "Keep your promise!" 

Rankin was there with Jackie Kinley, the Liberal candidate for Halifax-Chebucto, and Labi Kousoulis, the Liberal candidate for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, to highlight the party's $4 billion in spending on infrastructure for hospitals, emergency care and community health centres across the province.

Rankin talks healthcare protesters say it’s not enough (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

But before he could get to it, disability rights advocates pressed him on whether he will keep the Liberals' promise from 2013 to end institutionalization and ensure community-based living support for all people with disabilities by 2023.

That commitment to a more inclusive support model was laid out in a plan, commonly referred to as the "road map," jointly drafted by the province and disability rights advocates.

Vicky Levack from the coalition got to speak with Rankin before he took the podium.

"The institutions are still open. Why is that?" Levack asked.

Rankin replied, "We're working really hard, but we want to make sure that everyone has the right services."

Levack continued, "I'm telling you, sir, these places are not safe."

Vicky Levack and supporters want to see an end to institutionalization of people with disabilities (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Levack said she lives in a nursing home because her needs are considered to be beyond what social services can accommodate. She detailed the abuse she has suffered at the hands of other residents in the institution. She said she's been punched, kicked and nearly raped.

Rankin said it was troubling to hear and that he was proud of her for being there to speak to him.

"I don't need you to be proud, I need serious systemic change," Levack said.

Rankin said his government has been "working on it," and cited the pending closure of the Harbourside Adult Residential Facility in Yarmouth, N.S., but admitted there is still a lot of work to do.

In his announcement, Rankin spoke about the ongoing hospital redevelopment projects started by the Liberal government during Stephen McNeil's time as premier. Rankin said new "state of the art hospitals" and technology will help attract and retain doctors and other health-care professionals.

Rankin talks healthcare protesters say it’s not enough (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"For Nova Scotians, it means care closer to home and there will be better patient safety by improving infection, protection and control," he added.

After the announcement, Rankin's team said there would be no time for questions and he got back on the bus to canvass the ridings of Bedford South, Dartmouth North, Waverley-Fall River-Beaverbank and Sackville-Uniacke.

Marty Wexler, the acting chair of the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia, was disappointed.

He said they were hoping Rankin would commit to providing funding to ensure that the 900 people presently on the wait list will be supported in the community over the next few years, and not continue to be admitted into institutions.

Milt Isaacs has a 31 year-old son waiting for supported housing. He says he's so frustrated with the Liberals lack of action on housing for people with disabilities he's left the party. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Milt Isaacs lives in Bedford, N.S., and has a 31-year-old son with disabilities. He said he used to be a card-carrying member of the Liberal party, but he's frustrated so little has been done since 2013. 

"I suspect that the only thing we're going to get from this government is another study," Isaacs said, after Rankin left.  "And that's not what we need.... We really need action."

Tories' dog policy

Earlier Sunday morning, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston stopped by the Mainland Common off-leash dog park in Halifax to highlight a piece of his party's platform that supports dog adoption.

The PCs promise a $500 tax credit for individuals who adopt a dog from a recognized adoption agency. Houston said the health benefits of pet ownership, especially dogs, are "undeniable." 

Houston then headed down the South Shore to campaign in Lunenburg, Queens and Shelburne.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill spent the day campaigning in the ridings of Fairview-Clayton Park, Halifax Citadel, Preston, and Eastern Passage.

How to vote

Check whether you are registered to vote with Elections Nova Scotia.

Once registered, you can vote in advance of election day by requesting a mail-in ballot or by visiting a returning office or advance polling station.

On election day, polling stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Rose Murphy is a reporter for CBC Nova Scotia. You can contact her at