Lenore Zann is new to the federal scene and new to the Liberal Party. She isn’t new to politics, though.
The recently elected MP for Cumberland-Colchester, N.S., spent the last decade as a provincial NDP member of the Legislative Assembly before renouncing her party in June to run for the Liberals federally.
With no incumbent in her riding, it wasn’t clear how the race would shake out, but many thought it would go back to the Conservatives. Bill Casey served as Conservative MP before resigning his seat in 2009. In 2015, he ran again and won under the Liberal banner.
In the end, Zann won 36.7 per cent of the vote to former Tory MP Scott Armstrong’s 35.7 per cent — a difference of only about 450 votes.
This is the only time we’ve “ever had two Liberal members in a row since 1872,” said Zann. “So I felt that if I was going to give it a shot and be at the table … it was to be with the Liberal Party.”
She adds that her transition from New Democrat to Liberal hasn’t been too jarring, since both parties have progressive values. It also helps that some of her supporters came with her, she said; her new chief of staff is the former president of her old riding association.
She’s not entirely a stranger to the Liberal Party; she credits former prime minister Pierre Trudeau with convincing her family to come to Canada from Australia in the late 1960s. Her family settled first in Regina before moving to Truro, N.S.
“Pierre Elliot Trudeau as the prime minister reached out and said, ‘Hey come to Canada and we will give you jobs,'” she said. “I got to meet him afterwards, and my mum and dad got to meet him, and we thought he was amazing.”
Zann grew up to be an actor. Her most prominent role was a voice-acting gig on the popular animated X-Men series in the 1990s; to a generation of millennials she’s the voice of the mutant hero Rogue. Zann said she still gets recognized by her voice alone — and even famous actors have asked for her autograph.
(Asked by CBC News which superpower she’d most like to have, she chose flight. “Rogue got to fly when she drained Miss Marvel of all her life forces. That’s how she learned how to fly. I would like to get the power much more in a nicer way. Just be blessed with it, rather than have to kill somebody to get it.”)
While she enjoyed her acting career, she said she noticed long ago that many of the people calling the shots in politics were men. That inspired her to run in the 2009 Nova Scotia provincial election.
She hasn’t given up the arts completely. She still runs all-ages community theatre programs, producing either a Shakespeare play or a musical in Truro’s Victoria Park each summer. She says it makes her happy.
“I believe in the arts, I believe in the creative economy. Everybody wins, and I get to use my creative energy for something good for my community.”