Nova Scotia Assistant Calls for Government Funding to Enhance Workplace Safety

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – After a violent attack on a constituency assistant, there are calls for government funding of a second employee at legislators’ offices to address the aggression faced by front-line workers. Kelly Gomes, who was attacked in her office by a man she had assisted for four years, is advocating for increased safety measures at constituency offices. The assailant held her by the throat before causing damage to the office, and the only thing that prevented further harm was the presence of a teenage student who was doing a work term at the office of Brendan Maguire, the Liberal member of the legislature for Halifax Atlantic.

Gomes emphasized the need for additional staff in the offices of all 55 members, stating that doors locks and panic buttons are insufficient in protecting constituency assistants. The incident has raised concerns about the safety risks faced by these workers.

The Liberal Party’s house leader, Derek Mombourquette, plans to present the party’s position to the legislature’s management commission to argue for additional funding. He highlighted the major workload increases and rising safety risks faced by constituency assistants, which have been reported across the province.

The rising aggression in public discussions, particularly on social media, has been noted by the member for Sydney Membertou, who has seen a rise in threats and aggressive behavior. Similar incidents have been reported in provincial constituency offices in Ontario and Manitoba in recent years.

The estimated annual cost for a second staff person in all 55 constituency offices in Nova Scotia is between $4 million and $4.5 million. However, some government officials have expressed concerns over the optics of providing more funding for extra help, citing the economic challenges faced by the public.

The need to make constituency offices safer is acknowledged, but there are differing opinions about the best approach to address this issue. The debate continues as the government weighs the need for increased safety measures against broader public perception. The attack has sparked discussions about the safety and protection of workers, prompting a review of funding and security measures for constituency offices.

This report on the call for increased safety measures in Nova Scotia constituency offices was first published on Jan. 11, 2024.