Nova Scotia legislature’s Speaker to resign, opposition says he’s being forced out

Click to play video: 'N.S. Speaker of the House to step down'
N.S. Speaker of the House to step down
WATCH: The speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislature says he doesn’t want to leave his post, but that could be inevitable come April 1. The government announced today it has accepted Keith Bain’s resignation. Bain previously said he didn’t resign despite a request to do so, but now says it’s not worth fighting. Callum Smith reports. – Oct 13, 2022

The Speaker of Nova Scotia’s legislature confirmed Thursday that he has signed a resignation letter at the request of Premier Tim Houston, though he maintained he doesn’t want to leave his job.

Keith Bain was questioned by reporters after the Progressive Conservative caucus said in a news release that he had provided his resignation as Speaker effective April 1.

His future had been uncertain heading into Thursday’s opening of the fall sitting of the legislature after Tory government members and Houston’s office confirmed last week that there had been discussions around “succession planning” for Bain’s role.

A visibly upset Bain, who last week said that he didn’t want to resign, admitted that he had been blindsided by the release announcing his resignation, adding that he had just signed the letter on Wednesday during a meeting with Houston. He said he didn’t expect his intentions to be made public.

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“I signed a letter yesterday to say, if necessary, I would be resigning,” he said. “But I was hoping there would still be some room for negotiation further on.”

When asked whether he wanted to go, Bain replied, “of course not.”

“I’m close to retirement, I don’t need to be fighting with anybody,” he said.

Progressive Conservative MLA Keith Bain is seen in this undated photo.
Progressive Conservative MLA Keith Bain is seen in this undated photo. Nova Scotia PC Party

Bain also said that when Houston initially asked him to resign, he was told that it was because he had put the government in a “hard spot” with some of his rulings.

He said those rulings included his strict handling of health protocols when he reduced access to the legislature last spring amid a COVID-19 outbreak, as well as his call for an independent review of legislature members’ salaries, as was required following the August 2021 election.

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Houston recalled the legislature in July to block a pay raise recommended by a committee struck following Bain’s decision, saying that a raise was inappropriate during a time when people were struggling with the cost of living.

“That was fair, but he also said that after a year in government, it was time for change,” said Bain.

Houston repeatedly refused to discuss details of the resignation letter or even whether he had asked Bain to quit as Speaker, although he did say he had met with Bain.

“There’s been ongoing succession discussions,” was all the premier would say.

Click to play video: 'Tom Urbaniak talks post-Fiona in Cape Breton, potential Keith Bain ousting'
Tom Urbaniak talks post-Fiona in Cape Breton, potential Keith Bain ousting

Both the Opposition Liberals and the NDP continued to voice support for Bain on Thursday, whom they have previously described as fair and highly respected.

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Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said the premier put Bain in an unfair position.

“He’s being pushed to resign because he’s ruled in favour of the opposition on occasion,” Churchill said. “We have to make sure the rules of the legislature rise above partisanship for all of our sakes and for the sake of the institution itself.”

NDP Leader Claudia Chender called the latest developments around Bain “deeply troubling.”

“I think it’s clear that the premier is trying to force the independent Speaker of the House from his position and is inventing a new story each day about what is actually happening and why,” Chender said.

Chender added that Houston’s lack of transparency on the issue was a “new low.”

Bain, a veteran member of the Progressive Conservative caucus, was elected Speaker shortly after the Tories came to power in August 2021.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2022.

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