By David Shuman
Preston MLA Angela Simmonds is in the home stretch of her bid for provincial Liberal Leadership.
Simmonds has been on the campaign trail across the province with her promise of “new energy for Nova Scotians.” After announcing her campaign in February, the former lawyer has worked to build trust as a newly elected member of the Liberal Party.
“I think there's a time for change, I mean I say it because it's my campaign, but it is time for a different perspective and a new kind of new energy, new ideas,” said Simmonds in an interview with the Cooperator. “And I think that's exciting for people. But I think part of it is people are just waiting to be inspired.”
Simmonds is running against former minister Zach Churchill of Yarmouth. The leadership vote is online on July 9th, and delegates had to pay $20 by June 9th to register to be eligible to vote. Simmonds said the fee has been prohibitive to some.
“The one thing I would say has been one of the barriers is the $20 delegate fee, you know,” Simmonds said. “People just signed up last year for leadership and feel like they’re members and then asking them to sign up yet again. It’s a difficult conversation for some.”
The Cooperator reached out to the Nova Scotia Liberal Party for comment on how many delegates registered, but they did not respond by press time.
The Liberal contest is the party’s second leadership race in two years. When Iain Rankin succeeded former Premier Stephen McNeil in February 2021, the party was electing a new premier. This time, the stakes are different. “In all fairness, this is a leadership race and not the premier,” said Simmonds. “But I think part of it is just people are tired. You know, and that's fair. I get that part.”
Simmonds said that her top three priorities for the party are building trust within the party, rebuilding foundations, and making sure that the Liberals are relevant to what Nova Scotians want in 2025.
Running in the second leadership race in two years, Simmonds was concerned about what she could do to pull the party together. “I feel like there's a house and there's a little bit of cracks in the foundation. And you can't really keep building until you address that,” she said.
As a first time MLA, Simmonds said that her experience isn’t measured in the same way as her opponent. “Politics is about having solutions and working together with people and experience. Just because I wasn't a minister or MLA before now, doesn't disqualify my experiences as a lawyer or actively collaborating with all levels of government to make sure that historical land claims are rectified. Or when I worked in a school system and was on the grassroots of working with the students at the table and the administration.”
Speaking of her biggest challenge, Simmonds talked about how difficult debates can be. She suggested that, within the party, a productive conversation about solutions to problems would better highlight both candidates’ leadership abilities.
“After the first one, I walked out and my daughter was in tears, just so proud," Simmonds said. “Because it was just like ‘don't be hard on yourself. Do you know what you just did?’”