May 31, 2019 5:31 pm
Updated: June 2, 2019 11:35 am

Elections N.S. decision on Sackville-Cobequid byelection sparks rules debate

Mayors and councillors are free to continue their work while campaigning to become an MLA, but Elections Nova Scotia is calling that into question. Jeremy Keefe reports.

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The Elections Nova Scotia decision that found Halifax councillor Steve Craig didn’t violate existing rules in his provincial political campaign has opened up discussion about whether or not those very rules need updating.

READ MORE: Sackville-Cobequid PC candidate did not violate election laws: CEO

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In the decision, Elections Nova Scotia Chief Electoral Officer Richard Temporale indicated that although the rules weren’t broken it may be time that they are changed, perhaps to move more closely in line with what MLAs looking to move into federal politics have to abide by.

“I think it’s a sound recommendation,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill, despite the ruling going against what his party asserted.

“The CEO has said under the letter of the law what happened strictly speaking is legal but it’s very poor judgment and it ought not to take place.”

Burrill says it’s vindication that the complaint they made was warranted, even if the framework isn’t in place at this point.

“The 25 words or less version of that report is that what happened with the disbursement of public funds by a sitting councillor running for MLA is something that ought not to happen and that the laws of Nova Scotia should be changed so it doesn’t happen in the future,” he said.

“I think that’s an exoneration of our position making the complaint in the first place,” said Burrill.

READ MORE: Sackville-Cobequid byelection to be held next month

PC Leader Tim Houston has differing views on the report. He believes the rules governing municipal politicians entering the provincial picture are different from what’s dictated to MLAs heading to federal politics for a reason and isn’t interested in any changes being made.

“I think we need to be realistic that councillors have responsibilities, committees representing people on different issues and doing that during the writ period I don’t think is going to make or break an election,” Houston explained. “Lots of people have a job when they’re campaigning and if they feel they can do both of those to the best of their ability that’s a decision they have to make.”

“Of all the issues that keep me awake that’s not one of them,” said Premier Stephen McNeil, who downplayed the suggestion that the rules require an update.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia NDP file complaint against PC candidate in Sackville-Cobequid byelection

Mark Furey, the minister eesponsible for the Elections Act indicated that they are continuing to review the decision and admits it does pique some curiosity.\

“It’s an interesting discussion,” he said. “Obviously there’s a difference between the municipal level of government and the provincial, federal level of government.”

“We’ll look at the report provided by Mr. Temporale and determine what out next steps will be.”

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