Isle Madame native retires as acting Chief Clerk of the House of Assembly

HALIFAX: An Isle Madame native is retiring from the public service.

Speaker of the House of Assembly Kevin Murphy announced on November 5 that Annette Boucher, acting Chief Clerk of the House of Assembly, is retiring and her last day at work will be December 18.

“On behalf of the members and her colleagues in the House of Assembly, we wish her well in her retirement,” said Murphy.

A graduate of Isle Madame District High in 1979, Boucher received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Moncton in the 1980s.

“I was admitted to the bar in New Brunswick, I articled in New Brunswick but I never practiced there,” she said of her legal education.

She then returned to Nova Scotia to work for the then new Conseil scolaire acadien provincial for one year.

“I worked when the French school board was getting up and ready, the province-wide one, when they first obtained their building in Dartmouth,” she recalled. “I was involved in that project, they hired me for a year to work with them.”

After deciding to stay in her home province, Boucher then applied to, and was accepted for, admittance to the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society in 1990. She then practiced law for a time in Halifax.

Boucher served as a worker advisor with the Worker’s Advisor Program, offering legal assistance to injured workers for their claims, then as an officer for Worker’s Compensation Board hearings, and later, as a member of the board’s appeals tribunal.

After four years on the tribunal, Boucher served as registrar for the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

In 2006, Boucher received the Premier’s Award of Excellence, the highest honour of the Nova Scotia civil service as the first individual recipient of the award.

In November, 2010 Boucher became the assistant clerk and legislative counsel of the House of Assembly.

“I did the dual role when the house sat, I was the assistant clerk in the house, with the chief clerk at the time, and I also had some responsibilities in the clerk’s office for projects,” Boucher explained. “There was MLA renumeration reports and commissions, I worked with that. But I was also at the same time drafting legislation in the legislative counsel office.”

In February, she became the acting chief clerk following the retirement of former chief clerk Neil Ferguson.

“Since I was the assistant clerk and the legislative counsel, doing both of those jobs, there was some work from the clerk’s office that came over to me because I had that dual role,” she noted. So I always found it very interesting, very different. There were never two days that were the same. There were always different things.”

When the house was in session, those roles became even more interesting, even though Boucher had experience with those challenges.

“That could be a roller-coaster ride in terms of hours,” she said. “We sat contrary to other legislatures across the country, there’s no fixed daily schedule, you don’t when you’re going to sit, or how long you’re going to sit, in terms of how many days and how many hours in the run of a day. So that had its challenges for sure but it was nevertheless, exciting.”

Boucher said she didn’t have any experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that created headaches.

“The whole layer of COVID on top of that, trying to make your road through the administrative issues, and all of that, with COVID, was a challenge,” she acknowledged. “There was no manual for that. I can’t say that I disliked it, but there was certainly more stress involved in trying to deal with the COVID realities.”

After her retirement at the end of the year, Boucher plans to remain in Halifax and take it easy.

“My responsibilities are here and I’ll stay here. Honestly, the first little while of retirement for me is to going to be to have a rest and simply to decompress,” Boucher stated. “It’s been a hard year for everyone. I don’t think 2020 is going to be in anyone’s favourite yearbook.”

Once she has rested, Boucher expects she will remain busy, taking care of her 101-year-old mother, periodically visiting her daughter in Toronto, and finding a new hobby or interest.

“I can’t imagine not being busy doing something because I’ve always have been and I just can’t see going from 110 mph to zero,” said Boucher. “I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet, it’s the million dollar question.”

Now that the reality of this milestone is upon her, and she reflects on her career, Boucher added she feels fortunate.

“I had wonderful opportunities to do some interesting and exciting work, and for that, I’m grateful to have had those opportunities. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been great serving people in different capacities,” she added. “I just have had a very rewarding career and I find that I’m very privileged to have had those opportunities. It was great to have them and to take advantage of them, and I can only hope that for the folks coming up behind us, that they can have as many opportunities as I was lucky enough to have.”