April - 23 - Happy Spring!

The recent sitting of the Legislature is now over, and it is good to be home with my constituents, friends & family - including my two little fur-babies, Aayla & Ruby Dee. 

It seems hard to believe, but spring 2019 marked my 20th Legislative Session, and June 9th will be my tenth anniversary as MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River! Where did the time go?! 
I truly hope that my work both in and out of Province House has helped people not only in our community but throughout Nova Scotia. 

I am proud of the bills I have introduced over the past twenty sessions as your MLA and NDP Spokesperson for Environment & Climate Change; Status of Women; Education & Early Childhood Development; Advanced Education; Agriculture; and Aboriginal Affairs. 

As a member of the NDP Caucus, we introduced a number of bills this session which address Health Care concerns: overcrowded emergency rooms, ambulance offload delays, a shortage of nursing home beds and chronic under-staffing.

I also re-introduced my Private Member’s Bill #111 “An Act to Redress Environmental Racism” which is the first bill of its kind in North America - helping to bring the concept of “Environmental Racism” (the disproportionate number of dumps, land fills, toxic waste sites, and industrial polluters placed on or beside First Nations and African Canadian communities) into public awareness. 
Examples of this are Boat Harbour in Pictou Landing First Nation, the Alton Gas project in Sipeknikatek First Nation, Tire-Burning in Brookfield, and even the location of town dumps in Truro’s East Prince St and the top of Young St. Check out the Member’s Statement I made about the arrest and removal from their unceded land of three Mi’kmaq grandmothers who were Water Protectors of the Shubenacadie River: https://youtu.be/r88n9vLsCpA

I am also deeply concerned about Nova Scotia’s rapidly-aging population - especially since my own parents are now in their eighties. 
This spring we introduced a bill calling on government to make a substantial financial investment in long-term care as the lack of nursing home beds and understaffing contribute to the health care crisis facing the province. Too many hospital beds are being used for seniors who should be in long term care with trained staff looking after them. This would leave hospital beds available for sick patients coming into our ERs instead of leaving them in hospital hallways. 

The health risks faced by firefighters is also a major concern. So on March 1st our caucus introduced a bill to expand presumptive Workers’ Compensation coverage for firefighters to include many more forms of cancer linked to their work. 
Thank you to the many local firefighters who made the trip to Province House to support our bill. Although it was not passed by Govt (yet!) introducing it brought this serious issue to the attention of both the public and Government and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before presumptive coverage for all of Nova Scotia’s firefighters will become a reality.

Women’s health was another major focus for me and my caucus this session. On International Women’s Day I called for action to expand counselling services for survivors of sexual violence; action to expand midwifery services; and continued to demand a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for our hospital in Truro after the reports last year of two women who had not received adequate care after being sexually assaulted. 

So I was gratified when funding for a SANE for both Colchester and Cumberland was finally announced in this spring’s Budget. However it is important to note that Women’s Centres and Sexual Assault Centres here in Truro and across the province are struggling to keep up with the increased demand for their services now that the #MeToo movement has empowered more women to put fear and stigma aside to reach out for help. This still needs to be addressed. 
Human rights came into focus this spring with the release of the Wortley report on street checks which showed that African Nova Scotians are stopped by police and asked for IDs six times more than Caucasians. The NDP caucus introduced a bill calling on Government to ban this discriminatory practice. Soon afterwards, due to media attention and public pressure, the Government was forced to comply and announced a moratorium. 
In my capacity as Spokesperson for both Aboriginal Affairs and the Status of Women I continued to call on Government to act on the recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, and also address the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Here’s my Members Statement which paid tribute to Cassidy Bernard a young mother of twins, who was brutally murdered a year ago. Nobody has yet been charged. I welcomed her family to Province House and called for justice for Cassidy and all MMIW: https://youtu.be/E6dk7M2khUs
On March 15th students around the world left school to proclaim we are facing a Climate Change Crisis and to protest government inaction.That week I introduced a bill that would ban plastic bags, and another that describes the economic vision for our own Nova Scotian “Green New Deal”. Here’s a link to my speech for Second Reading of that bill, called the Green Jobs Act: https://youtu.be/gFv5uXbt39E 
Another bill supports municipalities with Climate Change action including protecting our coastline from rising sea levels. Here is my speech for Third Reading of The Coastal Protection Act which was passed unanimously by all three parties: https://youtu.be/9HTW7mmJAHc
The rights of youth were on our agenda as well; we tabled legislation to establish a Child and Youth Advocate office, pushed for transparency on the government’s plan for inclusive education, raised questions about our province’s disturbing child poverty figures, and in my capacity as Spokesperson for Advanced Education I made solidarity visits to both striking NSCAD faculty and Dalhousie’s International students who were protesting a huge hike in tuition fees next term. 

In the second half of the sitting we joined disability advocates in urging Government to address the need for more community housing and turned our attention to democratic renewal, introducing bills that would bring in Proportional Representation and support electoral participation of Acadians and African Nova Scotians.

In the very final days of the sitting I was honoured to speak to Bill #133 The Organ Donor & Tissue Act, which was a bill introduced by the Premier. This historic bill makes Nova Scotia the first jurisdiction in North America to bring presumptive organ donation into law. I spoke to the bill the day after my 15-year old niece, a gymnast, received a transplanted femur bone during an 11-hour surgery at the IWK, so this bill hit close to home. 

After my speech a number of members were testy eyed and so the Speaker of the House asked the Premier and every member to sign a copy of the bill for my niece to mark the occasion. A very touching gesture which my family truly appreciates. 

Here’s my speech on Second Reading of Bill #133: https://youtu.be/QI_dQxI44vM
In total this session our six NDP Caucus members introduced 29 bills, asked 100 questions, made a plentitude of member statements, and spent countless hours in Budget Estimates, bill debates, and committee meetings holding the government accountable for their decisions.

Now that the House has risen, I’m once again taking office meetings in my Prince St office and attending local events. The first week home I was truly saddened to hear the news of plans to close the long-standing Tandus (formerly Crossley) Carpet Factory in mid-July. My heart goes out to all the employees and their families. 
On May1st rehearsals begin for GUYS & DOLLS, a community production I’m co-producing with Ross Thompson, directed by Emma Smitt-Geraghty. We’re presenting the show July 5, 6, & 7th at the First United Church with a cast of 25 community members aged 10-70. 
This is the first play I ever performed in - thanks to CEC Guidance Councillor Norman Hines who cast me as “Adelaide” in Grade 10 at the age of 15. That performance inspired my professional acting career. Many roles followed in theatre, television, radio, film, and cartoon voice-overs like the role of “Rogue” in Marvel’s 90’s X-MEN series which has become one of the three most popular animated series in television history, along with Batman & Spider-Man! 
Not bad for a kid from Truro. 
When I moved home after 30 years on the road, I had no idea that a second career in politics was in store. Simply being close to family and giving back to community was the goal. A decade later I’m still grateful for the opportunity to do public service. 
Many thanks to everyone who has supported my journey for the past decade both inside and outside of the Legislature - and rest assured any future decisions will be with your best interests at heart. Please take time to enjoy every minute with family and friends. Because we never know what lies ahead. This moment is all we’ve got - and life is short. So make it a worthy one. 


** Stay tuned by following social media accounts: Lenore Zann, Politician on Facebook @ZannLenore on Twitter and Instagram.