By Richard Bell
Rhonda MacLellan was born in Chilliwack, BC and spent most of her life in British Columbia, but she always loved Nova Scotia, and finally moved here for good in 2017. “Nova Scotia’s just in my DNA,” MacLellan said in an interview. “My Dad was born in Deepdale, Cape Breton; his first language was Gaelic. He worked in the coal mines, fought in World War II, and moved to BC. I came to visit with his relatives many times—I’ve got 31 first cousins, most of whom live in Nova Scotia. Moving to Nova Scotia was something I always wanted to do, once my children were grown and settled. And after watching how the province handled the pandemic, it looked even more like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
MacLellan is an accomplished artist and musician, singing and playing both the violin and the piano. Her grandfather encouraged her musical skills and gave her a set of oil paints and an easel when she was seven. “Music and art are a form of therapy for me,” MacLellan said. She sang and played violin at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She plays piano with the Caledonian Orchestra of Nova Scotia.
In BC, MacLellan studied theology, and got a Bachelor of Commerce, and is currently working on a Master’s in Business Administration with Thompson River University in BC. In BC, she taught art and music, as well as running several other businesses along the way, including electrical contracting, a lighting store, and that of a general contractor.
When she moved to Nova Scotia in 2017, she looked for full-time work, planning to do art on the side. When she had trouble finding a job, she decided to set up a home-based business and sell her artwork, starting with cards. She traveled around the Maritimes, taking photos of scenes that she then transformed using oil pastels, pencil crayons, soft pencils, and black markers. She calls her style, “bright realism,” in honor of her new home in Nova Scotia.
MacLellan was always interested in politics. “In the last 20 years I lived in BC, I ran for office several times,” she said. “I had a good mentor, a retired MLA, and he encouraged me to keep running. I even ran for mayor once, against the incumbent and four other men. I didn’t win, but I got to raise a lot of issues for women.” She also served on several non-profit boards, including two dealing with affordable housing, a problem she sees here in Nova Scotia as well.
MacLellan has a disability from complications of knee surgery that make it impossible for her to campaign door-to-door. “I was concerned about campaigning when they asked me to run. But with Covid, door-to-door was tricky and phoning voters has been great. I love just talking to people—it’s so much fun!”
MacLellan says her primary focus as an MLA will be improving Internet service across the riding. “I had one young girl in grade 12 tell me that she failed an assignment because her Internet connection was so slow. I’m going to make the Internet my top priority in the legislature.”
In an article on her work as an artist, MacLellan described her basic approach as follows: “I still resort to old methods of starting from the top left of the page and working my way to the bottom right.” Her approach to solving political problems is similar: “I’m not promising anything,” she said. “What I will do is to do the research, and then work with government and all the other players to get things done.”