Liberal MLA Tony Ince was recently appointed as the new official opposition critic to the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Ince is essentially swapping roles with new Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Pat Dunn, who was the Progressive Conservative’s official opposition critic when Ince was the minister.
Ince spoke to the Examiner recently about his time in the legislature, the nature of the role of the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs, and Pat Dunn and newly appointed Deputy Minister Justin Huston.
“Angela Simmonds, Ali Duale, myself, and Suzy Hansen are coming together to form a bit of a Black caucus, so to speak, coalition, and we are coming together so that we can collectively try to move any of the issues for our community together,” Ince said.
Premier Tim Houston told reporters three weeks ago his government will return to the legislature for the fall sitting in October, although no date has been set. Ince said he, Simmonds, Duale, and Hansen are meeting and strategizing now. Ince also said it was still too early to comment on the new government.
The Examiner asked Ince about the nature of his relationship with Dunn when Dunn was Ince’s official opposition critic in Ince’s former role of African Nova Scotian Affairs.
“I’ve worked with the gentlemen and it was a collegial partnership or working relationship in the past,” Ince said.
Ince also said that newly-appointed deputy minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, Justin Huston, who replaces Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson, once served in the same role under Ince. He said Huston served as his deputy from 2017 until former premier, Stephen McNeil, replaced him with Munroe-Anderson in 2019.
“It was government’s decision to move him onto a different portfolio,” Ince said. “I will say, as my deputy, I enjoyed working with him. I thought he was very positive. He’s got a lot of experience.”
After lot of disappointment and weekly Black community meetings following the appointment of Dunn and Huston, who are both white, the Examiner asked Ince how he would describe the very nature of the role of the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs.
“Currently it is an office dedicated to assisting the community navigate throughout government, helping community to make those connections, those links with government, and in some cases, providing some funding — because they do have a little bit of funding — providing some funding for events, or whatever meeting, or whatever the community might be putting on,” he said. “And vice versa, it is there so that government will get to understand the community … the requests from community, and the office provides a bit of a historical background on the community for those within government.”
“If you’re a community member and you’re looking to connect with government — say you’re looking to organize and connect with a couple of different departments to try to inform them on an event or on something special you’re having within the community — most community members have no idea where you begin to go within government.”
This is Ince’s third term as an MLA in the provincial legislature. The Examiner asked about his biggest regrets and biggest accomplishments have been in his role to date.
“I don’t have any regrets. What I would say is I’m just really proud of all the work that was done behind the scenes — and I say behind the scenes because most community members don’t truly understand the breadth of the work that we do within government. So, I would say I’m truly pleased and impressed over the past eight years. I would say we moved the bar as a government more than any other government has in recent history. And I’m just hoping that all of that work, most of that work, is still gonna be able to happen. And to be able to move us forward so that we are on an equitable playing field with everyone else. Other than that, I’m enjoying this. And I’m honoured to be where I’m at.”
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It seems that Minister Dunn has an opportunity to benefit both from the experience and expertise of any of his staff who are of African descent, and from the possible good will of the Liberal – NDP Black Caucus, however informal it may be. There is lots of room for productive and collaborative ANSA policy development and it will be interesting to watch this process unfold.