Two MPs are accusing Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston of abusive behavior intended to intimidate opposition members, especially women.
Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, who has sat as an Independent since being kicked out of the PC caucus for participating in a blockade of the Trans-Canada Highway last summer, has asked Speaker Keith Bain to decide whether her former leader was intended to intimidate him. .
She said that after complaining about what she saw as an attempt by the prime minister to influence the chairman of a committee during the debate, Houston hurled an insult at her “loud enough for everyone in the room can hear it”.
“He made a derogatory comment intended to intimidate and embarrass me,” Smith-McCrossin said. “It was very upsetting.”
“It makes me uncomfortable even to come to this room to know that there are things being said and done to deliberately intimidate me, which I believe affects my ability to work effectively and confidence to represent the people of Cumberland North.”
Houston won’t say what he said
According to former Liberal cabinet minister Kelly Regan, Houston yelled, “Why don’t you block another freeway? Smith-McCrossin confirmed that was also what she heard.
But as the deputies left the chamber after the formal end of the session on Friday evening, Houston flatly denied that was what he said.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “Listen, look, tensions are always high in the House, especially at the end of sittings.”
“The session is over. It was a productive session. A lot of laws have been passed and the budget has been passed. We are going to leave on a good note.”
When asked what he said to Smith-McCrossin, Houston replied, “Listen, things are happening in the bedroom and things are being said back and forth,” he said.
“We closed the session and it’s a good day and we’re going home and back to our constituencies.”
Incident involving a minister
In a separate but related incident, Regan formally complained to the president about how a Tory minister treated her and others.
Smith-McCrossin left the room after the disagreement with Houston. Regan joined her with another liberal, Patricia Arab.
The three were talking when Economic Development Minister Susan Corkum-Greek walked by and referred to the women as a “coven,” or gathering of witches.
The Cabinet minister admitted to doing so and publicly apologized for the remark yesterday.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Corkum-Greek said. “My biggest disappointment is in myself for getting caught up in the moment here.
“I know I haven’t behaved like my best self in the person I want to be and for that I’m very sorry.”
Regan acknowledged those apologies, but also blamed Houston for what happened.
“I accept his apology, but what I don’t accept is what led to this because I think through the Prime Minister’s continued actions in doing things like directing the chairs in their duty or in doing things like shouting things at a member he has a [personal] beef, he’s trying to intimidate the members of this House,” Regan said on the floor of the chamber.
Premier says he’s ‘focused on Nova Scotians’
Houston brushed off the accusations and appeal to the President.
“There are a lot of points of order during the session,” he said. “It’s just the way of the legislature. People see opportunities, they try to take them, but I’m very focused on Nova Scotians.
Last fall, after an equally noisy session, Houston pledged to improve decorum at Province House.
“Everyone is getting a little grumpy I would say. I made a commitment on the floor of the House and I will do it everywhere else where as Prime Minister I have the responsibility to set the standard and I will do better to raise the decorum in the House as well,” Houston said last October.
During that session, Houston also apologized after suggesting that minimum-wage jobs aren’t “real jobs.”
The Prime Minister and Corkum-Greek are not the only MPs whose conduct has been questioned during the sitting this spring.
Liberal MP Brendan Maguire has apologized to Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane following comments he made to her during the budget debate.
With the spring session over, Chairman Keith Bain’s decision on the claims against Houston and Corkum-Greek will not come until the fall session.