By Hon. Lena Metlege Diab, MLA Halifax Armdale
I want to begin by sharing my immense gratitude to the people of Halifax Armdale. From the first doors I knocked on as a candidate over eight years ago, to the conversations I’ve had with you recently, you have been consistently kind, fair, and supportive. I count it as one of my life’s greatest privileges that I’ve had the opportunity to represent you in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly and give back to this community that did so much to raise and support me. Serving as an MLA is exciting, demanding, rewarding, and a never-ending learning experience. You’ve trusted me with the role, and I hope I’ve made you proud.
As you may have heard, I have decided not to re-offer in the next provincial election. I am, however, seeking the federal Liberal nomination in the riding of Halifax West, and sincerely hope to have the opportunity to put my experience and skills to work for our wider community and province in Ottawa. The decision wasn’t made lightly, but I believe that these last two terms have primed me to take on the challenge and deliver for all of our residents.
One of my most treasured pursuits has been serving as Nova Scotia’s Minister of Immigration since 2013, and I’m proud to see where we are today. As of April 1, our province has more than 982,000 residents—a record high. This year, we had the largest first-quarter increase in population since 1971. We had many years of population stagnation, but the growth since April 2015 has been incredible. My team and I have been innovative and responsive and have launched numerous immigration streams to fill our labour shortages. We have also concentrated our efforts on retaining more international students in Nova Scotia after their studies. As a province, we’ve dramatically increased our proportion of francophone immigrants through our first Francophone Immigration Action Plan, and reversed the decades-long trend of youth outmigration. I’m deeply proud to have led this work, and I am grateful to my staff, our partners, and all Nova Scotians who made this possible. I have worked to not only grow Nova Scotia, but also to build bridges between levels of government, settlement service providers, newcomer and cultural communities, and all Nova Scotians. Today, we are on the path to one million residents, and it will be a very happy day when we get there!
The last two terms have also seen meaningful investments made in our community. I think of the significant increases in funding for public education and home care, and the long-awaited construction of our next generation of healthcare infrastructure. I also take pride in the upcoming completion of our new J. L. Ilsley High School which will serve many of our families. I’m also glad to see the continued and growing enthusiasm for pre-primary, which I know has been extremely important for both Chebucto Heights and John W. MacLeod-Fleming Tower.
Of course, local level improvements matter greatly. In our area, I think back to many projects that have (and will) benefit residents. In my time as MLA, these included investing in breast imaging equipment at the Halifax Shopping Centre, accessibility upgrades at Bethany United and St. James Anglican, park upgrades at Long Lake and the Dingle, and funding a social entreprise pilot for The Club Inclusion. I also think of projects of lasting importance, such as the creation of new nursing home beds at Melville Gardens, the rehabilitation of the Northwest Arm sewer system, and the funding of the Graves Oakley community clubhouse. These are investments in the health, safety, and well-being and inclusion of our residents, and they matter.
However, securing investments is just one part of any elected representative’s work. There are many other legislative projects that I’ve been proud to see come forward in my time as MLA. As a province, we’ve created Lebanese Heritage Month, established Heritage Day, and apologized for systemic racism while pursuing needed reforms. We’ve also taken other meaningful steps to better people’s lives, including banning conversion therapy, implementing an opt-out system of organ donation, and establishing a framework to make our province fully accessible by 2030. I also take personal pride in my work to enshrine grandparents’ rights in the Maintenance and Custody Act. These decisions matter, and I’m proud to note that Nova Scotia has made these changes while also consciously and continuously elevating many deeply qualified women and members of underrepresented groups within our public service and judiciary.
As Nova Scotia takes the next steps in building our greener, post-COVID future, I’ve never been so optimistic about where our province is headed. Thank you for allowing me to be part of charting Nova Scotia’s future. I wish you and your family a wonderful summer.