July 18, 2018 4:45 pm
Updated: July 18, 2018 4:58 pm

Ice cream social invitation turns sour for Nova Scotia PC leadership candidate

Tim Houston is seen in this undated file photograph.

Global News File

If you’re a member of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party, check your email inbox tomorrow: four of the five leadership candidates are being given the opportunity to send an email to certain members.

It’s an effort to even the playing field after 72 party members were contacted using party resources by supporters of Tim Houston’s leadership campaign.

The email on July 12 invites people to an upcoming ice-cream social hosted by Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage MLA Barb Adams and Houston. It arrived on party letterhead, and was the subject of a complaint to the leadership selection committee.

This letter was sent to 72 party members by supporters of Tim Houston’s leadership campaign.

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In a decision letter obtained by Global News, the party’s leadership selection committee co-chairs Tara Erskine and Chris D’Entremont write that Adams had the email sent by a staff member in the party office.

“The staff member assisted the MLA in sending out the message and was not mindful that the request amounted to using party resources in a partisan manner,” the letter reads.

The decision letter says there is no indication that Houston’s campaign team knew Adams was using the party email system, called 4PC, to contact members.

Houston says his campaign has lots of enthusiastic volunteers, and no one was trying to do any harm.

“This should be a campaign of ideas, and you have certain people trying to make it a campaign about process,” he said.

WATCH: NS Tories gear up for leadership race that includes historic first

Houston, the MLA for Pictou East, is running for leader against Kings North MLA John Lohr, Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke, and Halifax Seaport Farmers Market executive director Julie Chaisson.

The leadership selection committee says while it hasn’t identified a breach of the leadership selection rules, the email is a breach of the use of the party’s email system.

“We note that it is the second time that a person acting on behalf of this leadership campaign has inappropriately used either party resources or party email lists,” the letter reads.

A supporter of Houston’s apologized in February after sending an email to PC Party members following the annual general meeting. In his initial email, Stephen Taylor wrote to thank people for electing him as vice-president of the organization at the AGM, and endorsed Houston for leader. He sent an apology later the same day.

“If the other campaigns want to send emails to people, they’re welcome to do that,” Houston said. “That’s part of the democratic process, and they should do that, and I invite them to do that and share some ideas about what they want to do for Nova Scotia.”

Clarke’s campaign manager says he will not be sending a letter Thursday. In an emailed statement, campaign manager Chad Bowie says he “cannot condone further rule-breaking as a remedy.”

“This is the third time one particular campaign has been caught breaking the rules. This is the second time party resources have been used to inappropriately further the interests of one leadership candidate,” Bowie said in an email.

“Rules matter. Members are looking for conservative, principled and experienced leadership that they can trust to protect the integrity of our party. That is what the Clarke campaign will continue to offer Tories across Nova Scotia.”

Smith-McCrossin will send a letter, and says she’s satisfied with the response by the leadership selection committee.

“I think it’s important that we all are aware of the rules and that there’s an expectation by all leadership candidates to follow the rules,” she said, adding that she believes it was an innocent mistake.

Calls to the other leadership candidates have not been returned.

For her part, Adams said she wasn’t aware that she was violating any rules.

“The topic is ridiculous,” she said. “This morning, I was talking to the federal minister of defence about the fact that my constituents who move here with the military can’t get a family doctor the whole time they’re posted here, and here we are talking about me inviting party members to my house for ice cream.”

READ MORE: PC Leadership convention to be held in late October

The party will choose a new leader at a convention in Halifax on Oct. 26 and 27.

The campaign has not been without controversy. Lohr has recently come under fire for a news release in which he accused protesters at a recent rally in Pictou of being paid. Smith-McCrossin apologized in April after controversial comments she made in the legislature about Jamaicans.

READ MORE: PC leadership candidate apologizes for controversial comments

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