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Nova Scotia Liberals knocked off message as campaign absorbs two scandals

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies' Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies
WATCH ABOVE: Stephen McNeil responds to questions about the removal of a Liberal candidate in Pictou East and the resignation of his campaign’s director of communications – May 9, 2017

Within 24 hours the Nova Scotia Liberals lost two people to two separate controversies — putting opponents on the attack and leaving Leader Stephen McNeil to explain how it happened.

READ MORE: All our Nova Scotia Election 2017 coverage

Following questions from Global News, the party booted Pictou East candidate Matt MacKnight over a 2013 tweet that made fun of a customer by suggesting they had Down syndrome. That was Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, after McNeil defended his campaign’s director of communications last week, the party announced Kyley Harris was resigning.

The news pushed McNeil off message on day ten of the election campaign – spending much of his time at a press conference explaining why Harris resigned on Tuesday when questions had been raised about his position in the party since the start of the campaign.

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READ MORE: Kyley Harris resigns from N.S. Liberal campaign

“He felt it was best for him to continue to put his life together outside of the public eye,” McNeil said Tuesday.

Harris was fired as McNeil’s director of communications in 2014 after he waited four days to disclose to the premier that he had been charged with assault. Harris plead guilty and received a conditional discharge and nine months probation.

Court heard he struck a woman in the face during a domestic argument on May 9, 2014.

He was hired by the Liberal caucus office in Fall 2015.

WATCH: Jamie Baillie responds to the staffing scandals hitting the provincial Liberal party’s campaign. He also defends social media comments from his own candidate Matt Whitman.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia PC Leader Jamie Baillie responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies' Nova Scotia PC Leader Jamie Baillie responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies
Nova Scotia PC Leader Jamie Baillie responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies – May 9, 2017

Last week, McNeil said Harris deserved a “second chance” however McNeil told reporters Tuesday that Harris felt “under attack as a person who is not running in elected office.”

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Asked if it was a mistake to give Harris the prominent position of director of communications, McNeil said “he was not at all on any inside position, or insider in my campaign.”

Liberal candidate’s tweet ‘inappropriate’: McNeil

MacKnight was the first shoe to drop for the Liberals last night, his removal prompted questions on social media about why Harris was still employed with the party.

McNeil said MacKnight was cut from the Liberal ballot because the party “wanted to make sure that our candidates reflected the people of Pictou East.”

“It was inappropriate,” McNeil said. “He’s seeking elected office, you need to represent the people.”

READ MORE: Former N.S. Liberal candidate apologizes for Down syndrome tweet that ousted him from race

He said he hopes if MacKnight chooses to run for elected office again “he’ll be able to do so with this behind him.”

Tory candidate’s comments different from Liberal candidate: Baillie

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie went on the attack over MacKnight’s removal from the Liberal’s slate, saying his candidacy adds to a string of questionable decisions from McNeil.

“He, in my opinion, said things that were offensive enough that he shouldn’t be running,” Baillie said Tuesday.

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Baillie suggested the Liberals should choose “candidates that reflect modern Nova Scotian and reflect the dignity that we are looking for from our public officials.”

However, he said Progressive Conservative candidate Matt Whitman’s social media use does not warrant the boot from the party. In March, Whitman posted a video of himself doing a Chinese fire drill around his car. He later removed the video, first calling it a “distraction,” and then later apologized for it after the video made national news.

“In Mr. Whitman’s case he apologized because he didn’t realise what he said was offensive and we’ve moved on,” Baillie said.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said Tuesday that Whitman’s video demonstrated a “not all together stellar capacity for judgment.”

WATCH: NDP Leader Gary Burrill gives his take on the staffing scandals hitting the provincial Liberal party’s campaign.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies' Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies
Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill responds to Liberal campaign staff controversies – May 9, 2017

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