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My summer: Megan Leslie, Halifax MP 

Leslie, voted Best Rookie MP on the Hill, spent a lot of time in Ottawa since being elected, but she's looking forward to a whole summer back in her adopted hometown.

Leslie, born and raised in Kirkland Lake, Ontario---"I'm not from Upper Canada, I'm from Rupert's Land," she explains---has been a Halifax resident for seven years, travelling to the province to study law at Dalhousie and having every intention of only staying for the three years of school. Though she found at the end of law school she didn't have a job, she still decided to stay in Halifax, having fallen in love with the city. Before becoming the NDP Member of Parliament for Halifax last fall, she worked as a community legal worker at Dalhousie Legal Aid. Recently she was voted Best Rookie MP by a poll of her parliamentary peers in MacLeans magazine.

The Coast: How are you enjoying being in Ottawa?

Megan Leslie: If you're asking me about the city, I have no idea. I really just work here. I know how to get from my apartment to the House of Commons and a few restaurants around the Hill. But I'm very much enjoying the work. I'm very much enjoying speaking out about issues and speaking out about Halifax. It's a very strange schedule, usually Monday to Friday (in) Ottawa, and Friday afternoon I head back to Halifax to spend the weekends. It's intense, but if I don't go home, how can I represent? What good am I?

TC: In the years that you've lived here, what have you enjoyed most in the summer?

ML: Well, I'm really looking forward to this summer, because I'll be in Halifax. I can't friggin' wait. One of the highlights of the summer is the Multicultural Festival. I love going to it. I spend two or three days there, sitting and watching all the acts that come on. And you can look out over the harbour and watch the changing skies. And not that I'm all festival-based all the time, but I really do enjoy the Jazzfest. There are two main reasons I enjoy it, one, it's right in the centre of the city and during the day it's free. So, anybody can go. It's not this elitist event, it's not "oh, I didn't get my ticket," it's free every single day. It really democratizes art in our community. And the second reason is that, yes, it brings in acts from outside the city that we wouldn't normally get to see in Halifax, but also, it allows local artists get to perform with these national or international acts. You see somebody come from another province and their backup band is all folks from Halifax. You recognize them. I don't get to participate in that sharing of skills or sharing of ideas, but I get excited watching them.

If we're looking at not festival-wise, I love how Halifax is this city, we have our own symphony, we have the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, we have great musical shows that come in. Great local theatre and local bands. It's very urban, and I love that about it, but I love that in a heartbeat you can bike to Chocolate Lake, or you're in Crystal Crescent or in Lawrencetown. It's so nice to have water and places to kayak, everything's so accessible. That's exactly why I didn't leave.

I grew up in a small town, and it's very remote. I did my undergraduate degree in Toronto, and it's very urban. In Toronto you're trapped. It takes you four hours to get out of the city. Halifax is the perfect balance of the things that I like, nature and yet having access to the urban stuff.

TC: With the Multicultural Fest at the end of June, will you be done your time in Ottawa by then?

ML: The house rises on the 23rd of June but I will be home on the weekend. I already know what I'll have (at the Multicultural Fest). From the Portuguese barbeque I'm going to have one of their sardines. From the Korean place I'm going to have bi bim bop. And from one of the Indian places I'm going to have one of those wonderfully spiced pancakes, I don't know what they're called.

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