Meet Gary Burrill

Gary Burrill was elected leader of the Nova Scotia NDP in February 2016.

Gary Burrill’s career as a minister, author, egalitarian organizer and politician led him to run for the leadership of the Nova Scotia NDP. Democratic renewal and a commitment to the principles of social, economic and environmental justice guide him.

Gary joined the New Democratic Party upon returning from the United States in 1990. He served on the executive of the federal riding association for a decade, including as President. In 2006, he ran for the provincial party in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, at a time when that seat seemed like the least likely to go orange in Nova Scotia. Though unsuccessful in that first attempt, he re-offered in 2009, and became the first NDP MLA in the constituency’s history. While serving in government from 2009-2013, he took on a variety of legislative roles, including Chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Since the 2013 election, Gary has been serving the shared Baptist/United ministry of the new United Heritage Church in Sydney, a congregation he helped establish in 2014. Gary has been married for 35 years to Debra Perrott. They have four grown children —Clayton, Eva and Rosanna, of Halifax, and Fred, of Montreal.

Gary is the eldest of the four sons of Audrey and the late Rev. Fred Burrill, both originally from Yarmouth. Born in 1955, he was brought up in the communities where his father served churches, in Canterbury, N.B., Berwick, Spryfield and the East End of Moncton. He learned first hand about the poverty and inequality that form the focus of his life and work.Following high school, Gary attended Queen’s University, where he received a BA and MA in Sociology. He then returned to Nova Scotia, and over the next decade was Coordinator of the Halifax Coalition for Full Employment, founding editor of New Maritimes, and a lecturer in sociology, regional history and political economy at Mt. St. Vincent, St. Mary’s, and the Maritime School of Social Work.

In 1988, Gary enrolled in Harvard University; he attained a Masters of Divinity, and was ordained a minister of the United Church. For 19 years, he served the congregations of the shared Presbyterian/United ministry in Upper Musquodoboit. There, he spearheaded the founding of Arimathea, the first funeral cooperative in Nova Scotia, and co-chaired the community construction of the largest wooden playground in Nova Scotia.