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N.S. town councillor who died at 37 leaves legacy of justice, compassion

Meghan Bragg, a 37-year-old Westville, N.S., councillor and health-care professional, died July 31 of cancer just weeks after being diagnosed.

Meghan Bragg's final wishes will lead to an accessible playground for Westville

A white woman with brown hair in a bob smiles at the camera, wearing a grey blazer and white shirt

In her final words, Meghan Bragg of Westville, N.S., wrote not about herself — but of her family and the town she loved so much.

Bragg, a 37-year-old Westville councillor and health-care professional, died July 31 of cancer just weeks after being diagnosed.

"My whole life I have been one to reach milestones ahead of schedule," Bragg wrote in her obituary, noting she had her daughter, Arley, in her early 20s, and was elected to council at 35 — younger than most municipal politicians in Nova Scotia.

Inspired by her family and community, Bragg wrote that she tried to "live a life that lifts others," with a passion for equity and accessibility.

She asked that donations be made in her memory to the Town of Westville to help create an accessible local playground.

Lennie White, the mayor of the Pictou County town of about 3,500 people, said Bragg's death is a "tremendous loss."

"I'm still pretty much in disbelief, because it's so hard to imagine that someone that young is gone, and with such potential," he said.

Playground will go in local park

White said he had asked Bragg prior to her death if the town could name the playground Meghan's Place, and she was "delighted with that."

White said the goal will be to both add some accessible playground pieces at the existing playground at Acadia Park and expand it. A crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $26,000 as of Friday, and White said the town will also contribute funds.

It's been an especially tough few years for Westville, White said, as Bragg is the second town councillor to die this term. In December 2021, Coun. Betty Jean Sutherland died at 72.

The mayor said the quote that Bragg used in her obituary — "A society grows great when people plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit" — will hopefully be added to the wall in Westville's council chambers.

White has also added it to his own email signature, "because I thought it was just so, so, Meghan."

'A beautiful legacy'

Bragg's friend and colleague at Nova Scotia Health, Dawn Ripley, said she was not surprised Bragg was thinking about her town, and generations of children to come, in her final days.

"I think that'll be a beautiful legacy and there's more to come, and there's more to build on," said Ripley, a public health manager for the northern zone.

"I think we'll all hold that tribute in our hearts, and we'll hold Meghan in our heart when we're nervous to speak up or speak out about something that we see that's wrong or unjust — it's the only way we'll change things."

Bragg worked with Nova Scotia Health since 2010 in various roles, most recently doing policy work with the cancer care team, Ripley said.

She added that Bragg, who was "brilliant," had a great insight into politics and was able to use her health and community advocacy skills to better things for everyone.

'Put people before everything else'

While Bragg was open about her plans to run for Westville mayor one day, Ripley said it's likely she wouldn't have stopped there but considered provincial or federal office. It's something Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire said he regularly brought up with her.

"It's very, very rare in politics to find somebody who will put people before everything else. And that's exactly what she did," said Maguire, who counted Bragg as a friend and dealt with her professionally in his time as municipal affairs minister.

Bragg's father, Ross Bragg, was a Liberal MLA for Nova Scotia who died at 40 of leukemia in 1997. At the time, Premier John Savage called him an "outstanding public figure."

Emily Lutz, deputy mayor of the Kings County municipality, said she and Bragg gravitated toward one another at municipal events and conferences. They were both part of a group of younger women in municipal politics who would support one another and share ideas, Lutz said.

"She was constantly thinking about those who needed help. And, you know, we could use a lot more Meghans at all levels of government," Lutz said.

Westville will hold a special election within the next few months to fill Bragg's seat.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Haley Ryan

Reporter

Haley Ryan is the municipal affairs reporter for CBC covering mainland Nova Scotia. Got a story idea? Send an email to haley.ryan@cbc.ca, or reach out on Twitter @hkryan17.

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