Nova Scotia

MLA loses office rent money in spat over accessible parking

A PC MLA who was ordered to make the parking lot at her constituency office in St. Peter's, N.S., more accessible has missed the deadline and is fighting back about having the work done.

Alana Paon says she's 'vehemently opposed' to using funds out of her office budget to upgrade parking lot

Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon will no longer be reimbursed for her office rent as a result of not complying with the House of Assembly management commission's order to upgrade the parking lot at her constituency office to make it more accessible. (CBC)

A PC MLA who was ordered to make the parking lot at her constituency office in St. Peter's, N.S., more accessible has missed the deadline and is fighting back about having the work done.

Alana Paon, the MLA for Cape Breton-Richmond, had until Thursday to comply with a year-old motion from the all-party House of Assembly management commission to have the driveway to her office building paved. A subsequent motion, passed unanimously a week ago, reminded her of her obligation and suggested a paved spot or concrete slab would be enough.

Last week, Paon said there were plans in the works to get a concrete slab poured, but on Friday, she said she didn't get the work done because she was unsure what she was being asked to do and the fact her landlord had already done plenty of other work to ensure her office was accessible to people with mobility issues.

"The only people that seem to be really unreasonable about this is the Speaker's office and the members of the House of Assembly management commission," she said.

Paon said she wasn't about to spend $12,000 from her constituency allowance on paving the driveway of the building she rents.

An accessible parking spot is located next to the ramp leading to MLA Alana Paon's constituency office. (Submitted)

"I am vehemently opposed to having to pay for a private business owner's parking lot out of a constituency budget," she said. "I just think it's absolutely ridiculous."

But Speaker Kevin Murphy disputed Paon's claim that his office and the all-party committee had been unclear about what needed to be done.

"It's been well-documented, it's very clear what the expectations are," said the Liberal MLA. "We've made every effort to work with this member and [explain] the consequences from day one.

"None of this should be new news or recent news."

Allegation of favouritism

Paon also took a swipe at Health Minister Randy Delorey for having received a non-compliance exemption in 2014 for his constituency office, something she tried and failed to get.

"I guess us mere mortals that are just regular MLAs and not cabinet ministers, I guess we can't be granted a variance," she said.

According to Murphy, the variance is a door that is eight millimetres thinner than the law stipulates.

Accessibility rules

The requirement for barrier-free offices for MLAs was adopted in the fall of 2013 and took effect after that year's election. Newly elected MLAs then had a year to comply with the barrier-free guidelines set out in law. 

Paon, who was elected in the 2017 election, is the only MLA whose office is not barrier-free.

Legal fight?

By not complying with the commission's request, Paon will no longer be reimbursed for her office rent. According to Paon's expense claims, that amounts to $1,500 a month for her constituency office.

Paon appeared ready to launch a legal fight to keep her constituency office money.

"I am telling you right now that if the provincial government, through the House of Assembly management commission is going to try and take a dive and to my own personal wallet to pay for a provincial constituency office, I'm sorry, but that's not on," she said.

Paon said she feels harassed and bullied by what's happened, but won't say who is responsible or what they're doing that constitutes bullying or harassing.

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