HALIFAX -- After her election sign was burned over the weekend, an African Nova Scotian candidate says the incident has given her a greater incentive to be a voice for people who feel unrepresented in provincial politics.

Tamara Tynes Powell, who is running with the Liberals in the riding of Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, says the damage occurred sometime early Sunday morning. Tynes Powell is the first person of colour to run in the riding, located about 100 kilometres north of Halifax.

"My campaign manager put my signs up at approximately 12:30 a.m. Sunday," she said in an interview Monday. "An hour later the fire department was there to put out the fire."

Tynes Powell said the sign was pulled from the ground and burned at the corner of Ford and Robie streets in Truro, N.S., which is the area where she grew up. She described what happened as the "negative actions of a few" and said she has received overwhelming support since she discovered the damage to her sign.

The 41-year-old says she remains undeterred. "I need to be a voice for people who don't feel that they have a voice and I refuse to let anybody take my voice."

Tynes Powell said Truro police are investigating the incident.

During a campaign event in Halifax Monday, Liberal Leader Iain Rankin expressed disappointment in what happened and said it illustrated the challenges faced by people of different backgrounds who step forward as candidates.

"I don't think it's a reflection of the majority of the population of Nova Scotia, but unfortunately there are issues in this province," Rankin said. "I'm committed to tackling systemic racism in all of its forms."

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston said he was disgusted, adding that there is no place for hate in the political system or in society. He agreed that what happened to Tynes Powell's sign is an example of the kind of incidents that make it more difficult to recruit racialized candidates.

"I think this is something that will give a lot of people (potential candidates) pause for thought and that's unfortunate," Houston said. "My message to them is, it matters who we elect. It matters that we have diverse voices at the table."

The Liberals, Tories and NDP have put forward a total of 10 Black candidates ahead of Wednesday's nomination deadline. Three are running in Preston, located east of Halifax, which is one of four ridings added by the government last year as a way to increase the participation and political representation of Acadians and African Nova Scotians. The total number of ridings in the legislature is now 55.

Meanwhile, as the month-long campaign moved into its second full week Monday, the Progressive Conservatives pledged that if elected Aug. 17, all Nova Scotians would have access to publicly funded, universal mental health care.

At an estimated cost of $100 million, Houston said his party would create a separate department dedicated to mental health and addictions and open provincial billing codes to allow private practitioners to deliver mental health services to all residents. Houston also promised to create a mental health crisis phone line.

The Liberals said they would spend $69 million over four years to assist the Nova Scotia Community College in training more skilled workers. The plan would increase base enrolment by 800 in order to meet evolving labour market needs, including 400 new seats in health-related disciplines and 400 in residential construction trades, information technology and green energy programs.

The health-related expansion will include 270 new seats for licensed practical nurses.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill campaigned in Sydney, N.S., on Monday, where he highlighted his party's commitment to bolster health care in Cape Breton. The party repeated a pledge to keep hospitals open that are slated for closure in New Waterford, N.S., and North Sydney, N.S., and to create 400 more long-term care beds.

"The NDP has a plan to invest in Cape Breton that is based on the real needs of the people here," Burrill said in a news release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.