Andrew Younger and wife Katia blast premier's office after firing
Premier Stephen McNeil gives Younger his walking papers after he refused to testify in assault case
Former Nova Scotia environment minister Andrew Younger says while he regrets the events leading up to his firing from the Liberal cabinet and caucus, he and his wife believe they've been treated unfairly by the premier's office.
Younger was given his walking papers late Thursday, after refusing to testify this week at the trial of a former Liberal staffer, Tara Gault, who was accused of assaulting him. Younger had been in a relationship with the woman.
Younger and his wife, Katia Younger, told CBC News on Friday that through the Gault case they made many personal and professional sacrifices to protect the Liberal government.
"I have done every single thing that the premier has asked," Younger said. "Often to our detriment."
Katia Younger adds: "I think what's been put on us is a lot of embarrassment and a lot of shame."
McNeil announced Younger's firing at a news conference, saying the cabinet minister gave misinformation about the case and an unsatisfactory explanation to staff when he cited MLA privilege as the reason not to appear in court.
His refusal to testify meant the assault charge against Gault was dismissed.
But Younger maintains he's been "open and forthright throughout," and says he was surprised to learn an hour before Thursday's announcement he was being let go.
Just following directions
Younger told reporters during a 48-minute news conference on Thursday afternoon that he'd learned of his parliamentary privilege Monday. In fact, he learned of it the Friday prior. The confusion was not intentional, Younger says.
"I absolutely made a mistake. When it was brought to my attention, I went back and checked it and did tell the premier's office, Kirby McVicar [McNeil's chief of staff]."
Younger says last Friday he and his lawyer believed there was going to be a deal in the Gault case and there would be no trial. But by Monday, the situation changed.
"I provided information. I explained that [to the premier's office], and was asked to check with my lawyer," Younger said. "It is what it is."
He and his wife say they were told from the get go by the premier's office to make sure the Gault matter went away.
"I dealt with Kirby most of the time," Younger said. "The only time I talked to the premier was when he asked, 'Is the matter over in terms of my involvement?'"
Katia Younger says she also tried to learn more about the intentions of the premier's office by calling them.
"I think the premier's office inserted themselves into our relationship," she says. "I would love to know. There's always been this feel that there's something there, but we don't know what it is."
Even though he says the government wanted the matter to be dealt with, Younger admits the decision not to testify was his.
"Nobody ever used the words, 'Don't testify,'" he says.
He says he had no communication with McNeil prior to his firing.
In December 2014, Younger says he was asked to sign a document forcing him to take a leave of absence as news of the Gault case first surfaced. Younger says he offered to resign at the time, but was told not to.
"The leave wasn't entirely voluntary," he says, adding that he had "little to no support from the Liberal party."
In the days that followed, Younger and his wife said they had 24-hour police protection at their home. McNeil's office told him he needed to deal with his personal matters.
"You can't relive your life, obviously. I regret becoming as close to Tara as I did — no question," Younger says.
Katia Younger says despite her husband's relationship with a former staffer, they're at peace in their marriage.
"Every marriage has challenges," she says. "We're very proud of our marriage. We're very proud we've made it through this."
The couple says the premier's office "kneecapped" them from telling their side of the story. And for that, they don't feel they've been treated fairly.
"In part, because we accepted their direction and handling the way they feel things should be handled because we felt, at the time, that was the best thing for us," said Andrew Younger. "But that didn't turn out."
Younger says he's not officially decided whether he'll sit as an independent.
'It makes absolutely no sense,' says premier
While in P.E.I for a meeting with other Maritime premiers, McNeil responded to many of Younger's complaints and recalled the events of Last December.
"We made it clear to him that he needed to have a break," McNeil said.
"He could either take that break on his own or we were going to provide one for him. He chose to take that on his own.
"We made it clear that when he came back to us and said that he was feeling better, felt he could do the full duties of a ministry, that we would consider him in due course with all other members of my caucus.
"But where we are today and how we're at this point today, quite frankly, is that the information Mr. Younger provided to me and to the media on Thursday was inaccurate."
With regards to Younger's claims he was being muzzled, McNeil had choice words.
"That's just a ridiculous statement. There's no foundation basis for that," he said. "Why would we want to let this story continue on and not let them have their conversation. It makes absolutely no sense."