By Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterHalifax Examiner
Wed., Feb. 23, 2022timer3 min. read
Earlier this month, Preston MLA Angela Simmonds was the first to announce her candidacy for leadership of the provincial Liberal party.
“Life has prepared me for this moment, and I think one of the things about me is I will definitely be able to inspire people, and I hope to bring different people to politics and to the party,” Simmonds said in an interview with the Examiner.
“I’m definitely not new to building trust and relationships … I’ve had my own business, but also worked in education and employment, and raised a family, and went back to law school at 36. So balancing priorities is an asset that I can bring,” she said.
We spoke with Simmonds on Saturday just prior to Zach Churchill announcing that he too will be running for the leadership of the provincial Liberals.
“There’s been a couple names floating around,“ Simmonds said. ”There was Fred Tilley and Zach Churchill. So Fred’s now recently endorsed me, so that’s really exciting. A lot of respect for him. And I believe Zach is building his team and we’ll look forward to the challenge.”
We asked Simmonds about her reaction to revelations last fall that former acting chief officer of Halifax-district RCMP Jeremie Landry sent e-mails to Halifax city councillors where he contradicted Simmonds’ claims in an ongoing investigation into the Cole Harbour RCMP.
“I was disappointed when I learned of that,” Simmonds said. “I don’t know him and I’ve never met him. And if I did in passing, I didn’t know it was him.”
In July 2021, Simmonds and her husband, HRP Supt. Dean Simmonds filed a complaint against the Cole Harbour RCMP and issued a statement where they accused the members of racial profiling in a traffic stop and said members of the RCMP pointed carbine rifles at them.
In e-mails to Halifax city councillors whose districts are serviced by the RCMP, Landry, who at the time, was acting chief officer of Halifax-district RCMP, said that video footage from Halifax Transit bus showed that “at no time, were any firearms pointed at them.”
The investigation remains ongoing.
“As [an opposition critic to Justice] I’d say I have no issue commenting on policies and practices of police and policing,” Simmonds said.
“As a lawyer, as a person who understands that when something’s under investigation, it means it’s under investigation. You don’t then kind of make a final decision.”
“I don’t know that much about the police commission or the municipality in terms of their relationships, but I would say if it was an ongoing investigation that there should have been no communication,” she said.
“People will have their own opinion of me, and this situation and they’ll decide for themselves. My job here really is to elevate people and to make sure my integrity is kept and I’m honest, and so that’s what I will continue to do throughout the process is be honest and tell the truth of what happened.”
Asked if she expects anyone else to join the race for the Liberal leadership, Simmonds said, “Hopefully we’ll know soon enough, but from my understanding, there will be one other person and maybe more, who knows. But [Churchill is] the only person I know right now.”
Simmonds said one of her goals is to expand the Liberal tent and to engage youth to get involved.
“For leadership, you can be a Young Liberal at the age of 14, so for me, it’s important for young people to know that opportunity, that they’ll actually have a hand in choosing who will represent them in a larger election,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for the younger generation who will be the future of this province to really have a stake in, and have a voice in decisions being made.”
The provincial NDP will be electing a new leader in June. Last week, Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender was the first to announce she is running for leadership of the NDP.
The Liberals have set a deadline of March 21 to enter their leadership race. The election of the new party leader will take place July 9.
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