2018-06-20

‘Toughest job I’ve ever had’

by Scott Costen

To say it was a tumultuous first year for rookie MLA Kim Masland would be an understatement.

The Queens-Shelburne representative lost her party leader due to misconduct allegations, faced the near-death of a caucus colleague and felt bitter frustration at the highly partisan environment in Nova Scotia's legislature.

But the overall experience has been a positive one for the former banker and political staffer. In fact, serving as MLA is a role she relishes, despite the extensive travel, long hours and sometimes rancorous debates.

"It's the toughest job I've ever had, but I absolutely love it," said the Progressive Conservative (PC) MLA, who was sworn-in June 16 last year. "There is not a single day that goes by that I'm not excited to go to work. As a little girl from North Brookfield who grew up dreaming of this, I'm very thankful and humbled by it."

Masland is the PC environment critic and deputy whip and sits on the legislature's resources committee. She introduced a private member's bill last October to update provincial environmental law, but said it was thwarted by government partisanship.

"The bill was just updating the (Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act) to reflect what is being requested of us in the Paris Agreement," she said. "It was just updating language. It was really just housekeeping."

While critical of government partisanship, Masland is known to give as good as she gets. "I've followed the party line since I was old enough to vote," she said. Her social media feeds, which are peppered with condemnations of the McNeil government, reflect that party loyalty.

"But I do believe good ideas can came from all sides," she said. "And you shouldn't oppose something just because of who introduced it. We've all been elected to try and make life better for the people of Nova Scotia."

An example of Masland's ability to work across party lines came with the provincial government's new cyberbullying legislation, which was introduced and passed during her first year on the job. It was a vitally important – and deeply personal – issue for her.

"That was a bill that was very close to my heart because I have a daughter that experienced the effects of bullying," Masland said. "It affected her greatly. It affected our entire family."

Masland said there were mixed levels of support for the bill among PC members, but she made an impassioned plea to colleagues to support it.

"We needed to try to stop these kids that are hurting children from behind keyboards," she said. "And the day the legislation was introduced, I spoke to it and I congratulated the government and I thanked the justice minister."

One of the most difficult moments in Masland's first year came when her party's leader, Jamie Baillie, stepped down due to misconduct allegations. The allegations have never been fully explained to the public. According to Masland, they've never been clearly outlined to the PC caucus, either.

"I remember the day that we were told that Jamie was leaving," she said. "Still to this day, I don't know the details. Nor do I want to know."

The fact Baillie was instrumental in convincing Masland to run in the 2017 election made the allegations and his departure that much more difficult. "It did bother me, absolutely," she said. "Jamie recruited me and signed my papers to run. It felt heavy on my heart."

Prior to her election last year, Masland served as Queens County's senior safety coordinator. She learned CPR for that role, training that came in handy in her new position as an elected official.

Keith Bain, a PC MLA from Cape Breton, went into medical distress last October during a party caucus meeting. Masland and several colleagues responded immediately, saving Bain's life.

"He's doing well now," Masland said. In fact, upon returning to work, Bain successfully introduced legislative changes to make defibrillators more widely used and accessible.

Masland said she doesn't expect to change her focus in her second year in the legislature. She will continue to fight for constituents, particularly seniors and those having trouble navigating the health care system, she said.

She admitted that poverty, even among working people, remains a significant issue in Queens-Shelburne. While she expressed eagerness to look for solutions, she held firmly to the PC position against a substantial raise in the province's minimum wage.

One change that will be coming to Masland's office is the departure of constituency assistant Annette Burke, who will be returning to teaching following a one-year leave of absence. A replacement will be announced later in the summer, Masland said.

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