By David Shuman
Incumbent MLA Kevin Murphy said that, out of all the work he has done in his position, he is most proud of his work in disability justice, culminating in the Accessibility Act of 2017.
Murphy, a Liberal, is running for his third term, and has served as Speaker of the NS House of Assembly since he was first elected in 2013. Murphy’s disability work has led to the creation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Parliamentarians with Disabilities subcommittee.
When Murphy was asked to run in 2012, it wasn’t the first time the Liberals had asked him to run. No stranger to community leadership and activism, he had been on committees and boards in the HRM for disability advocacy. He went through multiple rounds of attempting to get accessibility legislation in the province throughout the 90’s and 00’s and was an active member of the Musquodoboit Harbour rink commission starting at age 16.
When former premier MacNeill asked him to run, he thought “If I don’t try now, I’m always going to regret it.” He says he sees potential in the community, but it takes a lot of leg work to get them going. “In 2012, people spoke loud and clear, from one end of the Eastern Shore to the other, that we needed new infrastructure, on the education side, on the health side, and on the recreation side. They needed new opportunities for their families.”
He says that things have taken longer than he hoped, but he feels the community has turned a corner. In recent years, multiple new schools have been built on the Eastern Shore, with plans for more on the way. With a new consolidated 7-12 school planned for the East Chezzetcook industrial park and a new local French language school a government priority, the Eastern Shore is growing at an unprecedented rate.
For Murphy, this growth signals a need for new housing opportunities. “Housing is an issue for every demographic … we need to be able to provide families with safe and affordable housing. We have opportunities for more luxury housing, but we need a mix of demographics.”
He suggests that empty school buildings could be used for housing down the line. “I was brought up under the general rule that your community is what you make it. You live, you work, and you play there – you take from your community, but it is just as important to give back. My parents were always involved in the fire department, the recreation commission, the lions club… that was just instilled in us growing up.”
Murphy lives with his wife, Stephanie, and his two kids, Rachel and Jackson. Murphy says that although he can’t be involved with any community groups officially, he is pleased to work with groups such as local Lion’s Clubs, fire departments, and minor sports associations to help support their efforts.
He studied marketing and Saint Mary’s University and kept involved, both in disability justice at his school and community, and in athletics wherever he could.
“After my accident – I was injured when I was 14, I did kid stuff until then – after that I had to grow up pretty fast. And the community was always there for me.
“Obviously, I wasn’t going to go and fight fires, but with my accounting experience I could help out as the treasurer.”
Later, he spent several years traveling with the Rick Hansen Foundation.
When Murphy was elected, he was nominated as Speaker of the House. He has served a longer term than most and says that this position helps him gain access to government officials that he otherwise might not. When asked if he had thought about stepping down from his speakership, he said that he had, but he would take any appointment that his leader thought he would fit in.