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Manning MacDonald says he shouldn't have to pay a penalty for going on vacation while the house was in session. (CBC)

A veteran Liberal MLA came under fire Wednesday for taking an extended vacation rather than being in the legislature this spring.

Manning MacDonald, who represents Cape Breton South, was away for nearly a month.

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie and Premier Darrell Dexter say MacDonald’s pay should be docked.

"People should just go to work and do their job," said Baillie. "And in this job, you’re expected to be in the legislature. To be gone for a month is just wrong."

"Booking off three weeks during a legislative session, I think, would be unusual by any measure," said Dexter.

Penalty unnecessary

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil allowed MacDonald to take the time off, but now he’s changing his position.

"Taking that much time off during the house session, I don’t think anyone would think it would be reasonable," McNeil said.

McNeil said it’s time to take a close look at the rules and make some changes. But for now, he doesn’t agree that MacDonald should pay a penalty.

MacDonald is also brushing off the suggestion that he should be penalized.

"If they do that, there will be an awful lot of members getting docked," he said. "Over the years I’ve been here, members have been missing all the time."

There is a provision in the current rules to allow the speaker to fine a member who misses time in the house, but it’s unclear if a speaker has ever done that.

MacDonald announced last year he won't be running in the upcoming election.

With files from Jean Laroche