A Nova Scotia MLA has been removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus after promoting a blockade that disrupted traffic on both sides of the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border.
The decision came after Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston held a Zoom meeting Wednesday night with members of his caucus, as well as Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the MLA in question.
“The more I learned from Elizabeth about her involvement, the more obvious it became that it’s not anything that I support, it’s not anything that the PC caucus supports,” Houston said during a media availability Thursday afternoon.
Smith-McCrossin will also not be permitted to run as a Progressive Conservative in future elections.
After Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin announced Tuesday — the day before the so-called Atlantic Bubble was set to begin — that people travelling from New Brunswick would have to follow a modified self-isolation, Smith-McCrossin encouraged her constituents to form a blockade on the Trans-Canada Highway in protest.
The initial blockade was near Exit 7 of Highway 104 and protesters set up another right by the border the next day, which led to traffic chaos, disrupted commerce and forced the cancellation of more than 100 medical appointments.
Smith-McCrossin has said she didn’t organize the protests, but she did promote the initial blockade to her nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook. She ended up asking the protesters to disperse on Tuesday night.
Houston had previously said on Wednesday that while he supported Smith-McCrossin “standing up for her constituents,” he didn’t support the blockade.
On Thursday, Houston stopped short of saying what exactly he learned during their discussion about Smith-McCrossin’s involvement, but said she was quizzed on whether the blockade had already started when she arrived and if she made any attempts to stop them from blocking the highway.
The answers “weren’t satisfactory,” he said, and the MLA failed to take accountability for the “really difficult” ramifications that came as a result of the blockade.
“We wanted her to take some accountability for her actions, to apologize to Nova Scotians, and she wouldn’t do that,” he said.
When asked if Smith-McCrossin would have been allowed to stay if she had apologized, Houston said it would have depended on the wording of the apology and whether it seemed sincere.
“But what was definitely necessary was some sense of accountability for the impact of a person’s actions on all Nova Scotians,” he said.
“That was the bare minimum. And then past that bare minimum, then we’d have further discussion, but we couldn’t get over that hurdle.”
Houston said there are some very real frustrations stemming from Rankin’s last-minute decision to implement a modified self-isolation for New Brunswick travellers, but said the blockade wasn’t the answer.
“These actions were not appropriate. The blockade was not appropriate, and it distracted from holding the government to account,” he said.
While Smith-McCrossin has had controversies in the past — which include suggesting cannabis use has led to productivity issues in Jamaica — Houston said the decision was solely based on what happened at the border.
‘I will never apologize for doing my job’
In a public Facebook post Thursday, Smith-McCrossin said the PC caucus met Wednesday night and Houston asked her to publicly apologize and “stop expressing my concerns about Premier Iain Rankin and the government.”
“I will never apologize for doing my job to represent my constituents,” she wrote.
“As PC leader, Mr. Houston has every right to change his mind after he previously supported me … But my conscience will not allow me to sacrifice fighting for my constituents, the job I was sent to do in 2017, to comply with a party leader, just because he changed his mind.”
Smith-McCrossin said she supports the values of the PC party and is saddened she can’t continue to serve the party.
“I will need to take some time to reflect with my family, my constituents and my supporters on what I will do next in politics,” she said.
“Until the next election, Cumberland North residents can continue to count on me and my office to help them on their provincial issues.”