By Richard Bell
MLA Lloyd Hines (Guysborough–Eastern Shore–Tracadie), recently reelected by a narrow 71 votes over PC challenger Rob Wolf, surprised constituents in the Sheet Harbour area with the announcement of the closing of his one-day-a-week satellite constituency office in Sheet Harbour on July 13, 2017.
Hines opened the satellite office on June 14th, 2016. In a Facebook post on July 4, 2016, Hines wrote, “I am so thrilled to welcome Marilyn Munroe, a long time resident of Sheet Harbour, to our team. Please stop by to see how we can help you navigate provincial programs and to assist in completing applications for rebates, grants and more!”
However, Hines’ office said in an emailed statement to the Cooperator on July 14, 2017 that the office had been operating “on a year’s trial… Constituency offices operate on a fixed budget across the province [sic] this was an attempt to measure the utility of a satellite office. The volume of usage was low during the one-year trial period.”
Hines serves one of the very large ridings in which a second office would be much more convenient for people on the western side of the riding, who once again must cope with a long drive to get to Hines’ primary office in Guysborough. But due to the Assembly’s stingy one-size-fits-all budgeting policy, only a small number of MLAs have a second office.
Hines’ office emphasized in the statement that the closing would not result in any “interruption of service. Lloyd encourages constituents to use the toll-free number 1-855-511-2280 as before to contact the full-time constituency office located in Guysborough. Lloyd regrets any inconvenience this may cause...MLA coverage will revert to scheduled meeting days in a local office, usually the hospital board room, as had been the practice prior to June 2016. Previous MLA’s have not operated a stand-alone office in Sheet Harbour nor does the the local MP or Municipal Councillor.”
Hines’ office provided additional details about its new policies in an emailed statement to the Cooperator on July 18, 2017 in response to a query about how residents could find out about “scheduled meeting days” or arrange for meetings: “Scheduled meeting dates will be advertised through social media (ie. Facebook), the local Chamber and community organizations, and if possible, on the Sheet Harbour Radio. Meetings will also be held on an 'as-needed' basis which will put us in this area of the Constituency on a weekly basis.”