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Megan Leslie—an introvert in an extrovert’s world

This is the first in a series of profiles of the Members of Parliament who represent Halifax in Ottawa

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Megan Leslie

Megan Leslie

While you get the sense that Megan Leslie genuinely likes her job, it’s not something she plans to do forever.

The twice-elected MP for Halifax, who just turned 40 in September, says she intends to run again in 2015, but sees herself returning to her roots as a community organizer in the longer term.

“I’m not going to be a career politician,” she says. “I am, legitimately, an introvert. It takes a lot of energy for me to do this and sometimes it overwhelms me. And sometimes it makes me very sad, and it’s very emotional. [But] I will not go from this into retirement, I will do other things…I’ll go back to working in community.”

It might be a surprise to some that Leslie considers herself an introvert. It certainly was a surprise to me, having followed her from her nomination as Alexa McDonough’s successor in 2008 to where she sits now, as the deputy leader of the NDP in Ottawa.

Halifax Magazine met with Leslie in September in her seventh-floor office in the Confederation Building, an office building in Ottawa’s Gothic revival style only a few steps away from Parliament Hill. The assignment was pretty simple: profile Halifax’s federal politicians in their favourite Ottawa locales, giving readers at home a sense of their MPs lives in the capital.

Leslie can’t comply with the parameters of the assignment.

“I don’t live here,” apologizes Leslie.

Halifax is her home—adopted after she moved from her native Northern Ontario for law school at Dalhousie in 2002. That’s where her favourite neighbourhoods, pubs and cafes are. When she’s in Ottawa, she’s there to work.

She’s has been doing that work for more than five years now. Leslie has risen quickly in the Ottawa bubble, serving as the New Democrats’ health and environment critic under Jack Layton, and now as co-deputy leader under Thomas Mulcair.

Her success in Ottawa has been mirrored in the riding, where she took 51.6 per cent of the vote in the 2011 election. But Leslie has come under some criticism for staying silent on local matters in her capacity as urban Halifax’s federal representative. It’s a criticism Leslie understands.

“The trouble is that I am very, very firm about jurisdiction. This is federal, this is provincial, this is municipal,” Leslie says. “So on something like the [Nova Centre], there was such a small, small federal piece in there that I felt that I could come out legitimately on.”

One of the reasons that criticism exists, Leslie believes, is that the issues that are closest to Haligonians’ hearts are closest to home, and usually municipal. “I am well known, I think, in the community … so if there’s an issue that’s close to their heart, they call me,” she says. “And it doesn’t make a difference to them if it’s provincial or federal or municipal, they want me to speak out.”

So she’ll continue focusing on the work she most enjoys—the little-heralded legislative side of politics in Ottawa. The question of for how long will have to wait until after 2015.

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