Maverick MLAs walk tightrope between party loyalty, conscience

By MARK COFFIN

‘I hated losing my independence, having to vote the party line,’ recalls Francene Cosman. ‘I found that very difficult because I’m very much an independent thinker. So, that was the toughest role for me, was learning to toe the party line.’

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In din of politics, constituency concerns are loudest cry

By MARK COFFIN with LOUISE COCKRAM

'Usually, the thing that you want the most is to get re-elected,' former NDP finance minister Graham Steele told us. 'Your voters — you learn very quickly — your voters have no idea what is going on in the legislature. And you can work your pretty little brains out to be the best legislator ever, and the people at home don’t care.'

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Mentors make stage fright less daunting

By MARK COFFIN with LOUISE COCKRAM

Secret supporters bolstered Alexa McDonough's performance during her early years as an MLA, when she was the only woman and NDP member in the House. “I’d have a note arrive — and I sometimes wouldn't even know where it has come from — saying, ‘In case you're wondering, there is no rule that prevents you from doing the following’ and I would think, 'Wow, who sent me that note?' ”

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Tug of party leash is strong for MLAs learning the ropes

By MARK COFFIN

In the face of uncertainty and confusion, it should be no surprise that most MLAs choose the safety of clarity that comes with siding with their party, even when their consciences might feel tested.

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And the nomination goes... according to political script, usually

By MARK COFFIN

Even though the people who show up to vote at nomination meetings aren’t overly partisan, and even though the results of most contests are unsurprising to the candidates involved, that doesn’t mean nail-biters don’t happen now and then. These contested ones are — from what we have heard — quite rare, and are the stuff of legend.

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Picking a political banner often depends on prevailing winds

By MARK COFFIN

“I was inspired by (Pierre) Trudeau. He captured the youth of my generation,” recalls Alexa McDonough. “But then I was really appalled by the shortfall between what was espoused on the election trail and what they actually did with the power that they got.”

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The call to public office — ‘If not me, who?’

By MARK COFFIN

If you read the comments section on online news articles or listen to talk radio, it’s not hard to develop a pretty clear image of what certain people think a politician is. They are power-hungry, pension-seeking, moth-like beings — drawn to each and every spotlight they see. That’s the stereotype, but our research hardly bears this out.

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First MLAs are marginalized, then they get marching orders

By MARK COFFIN and LOUISE COCKRAM

“The only person to ever come and sit with me (at lunch) from the opposition was John Hamm,” recalls Yvonne Atwell, a former NDP MLA who was the second African Nova Scotian to be elected to the legislature. “(John Hamm) would come if I was there by myself — if there was nobody else from my party — but the others wouldn’t.”

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Mining the exit interview for political gold

By LOUISE COCKRAM and MARK COFFIN

It's not often citizens get a candid look at the political process. In fact, modern politics is so tightly scripted that we rarely ever find out what political actors really think about their roles. Over the course of the next several months, we hope to change all that. We’ll share the private stories about public life in Nova Scotia and we hope you’ll join us along the way.

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