Nova Scotia is taking steps to limit the ability of politicians in the province from running for another level of government while serving in their current role.
This legislative session the provincial government will introduce amendments to the House of Assembly Act, Municipal Government Act, Halifax Regional Charter and Municipal Elections Act that will force sitting politicians to resign or take a leave of absence if they run for office at another level of government.
The changes come after Premier Stephen McNeil expressed his dissatisfaction that four provincial politicians had announced their intentions to run in the federal election but did not immediately resign their seats in the provincial legislature.
Former PC MLAs Chris D’Entremont, Eddie Orrell and Alfie MacLeod are running for the Conservative Party of Canada while former NDP MLA Lenore Zann is running for the Liberals.
With the federal election well underway all four have resigned their seats.
The amendments announced on Thursday indicate that the provincial government are moving quickly to establish “clear rules” on when MLAs should resign.
“This change will help ensure MLAs, who decide to run for another level of government, are free to focus on that new work and are protected from perceived or potential conflicts,” said Justice Minister Mark Furey.
MLAs will now be required to resign once they are selected by a federal political party, or if they’re running as an independent once they are officially nominated as a candidate under the Canada Elections Act.
The changes to the Municipal Government Act and the Halifax Regional Charter will require municipal councils to establish policies that address councillors running for other levels of government — an incident that occurred twice in the past year
Steve Craig was a long-serving member of Halifax Regional Council but campaigned for the PCs in a byelection in the provincial riding of Sackville-Cobequid in June.
Craig would go on to win the election.
Coun. Richard Zurawski is running in the federal election under the banner of the Green Party but remains on Halifax Regional Council.
Similar campaigns will likely become rare as a result of the changes announced on Thursday — which will require municipalities to address whether a councillor must resign or take a leave of absence and outlines what events a councillor can participate in.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Chuck Porter also introduced changes to the Municipal Elections Act which will address leaves of absence granted to a municipal employee who is running for office.
“By making these changes we are supporting municipal councils to implement a policy that clearly outlines the rules for councillors and addresses potential conflicts of interest,” Porter said in a press release.
The move was welcomed by opposition members who were on hand to hear the planned legislation.
“I think it should be standard across the province,” said PC Leader Tim Houston.
“It’s unproductive to have a mismatch across the province but the reality is that I personally believe people should resign their seat when they seek another office.”
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said that someone who is elected is being “given an enormous privilege” and that officials shouldn’t throw that privilege away lightly.