Nova Scotia

Bill Casey, N.S. Liberal candidate, alleges government interference in campaign

The Nova Scotia candidate for Cumberland-Colchester says he has filed a complaint with Elections Canada, accusing the Department of National Defence and the Privy Council Office of interfering with his campaign stop in Amherst, N.S.

Casey alleges Defence Department and the Privy Council Office denied him access to armoury in Amherst, N.S.

Liberal candidate Bill Casey accuses the Department of National Defence and the Privy Council Office of conspiring against him after he was denied entry to an armoury in Amherst, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The Liberal candidate for Cumberland-Colchester in Nova Scotia says he has filed a complaint with Elections Canada, alleging he was refused entry into a public building during a campaign stop.

Bill Casey made the complaint Tuesday in a letter to Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer, accusing the Department of National Defence and the Privy Council Office of conspiring against him.

On Sept. 21, Casey announced on his website he planned to visit the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury in Amherst at 11 a.m. the next day because the building is in disrepair.

Under law, candidates are allowed to campaign in public areas. The armoury's museum is open Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., or by appointment. The building itself is under federal jurisdiction.

Casey said he tried to enter the building, but armoury staff told him he wasn't allowed as he was in contravention of the Canada Elections Act. A staff member said he was "operating from instructions from CFB Halifax," according to Casey. 

Liberal candidate Bill Casey says disrepair and falling debris is a problem at the Amherst armoury. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

"And then when I didn't leave, I was summoned to the phone at the armoury and I was told by a CFB Halifax official that I had to leave the premises immediately," Casey said in an interview.

The next day, Casey said, he spoke with CFB Halifax public affairs officer Mike Bonin, who told him he was refused entry not because of the Elections Act, but because of directives given to CFB Halifax by the Privy Council Office in Ottawa. 

CBC requested an interview with Bonin, but he said he will not comment on the situation given Casey has formally filed a complaint. 

In an email to CBC News, Privy Council spokesman Raymond Rivet wrote that "there was no direction from PCO regarding access to the Amherst Armoury."

According to the Section 81.1(1) of the Canada Elections Act, "No person who is in control of a building, land, street or any other place, any part of which is open without charge to members of the public … may prevent a candidate or his or her representative from campaigning in or on that part when it is open without charge to members of the public."

And anyone who contravenes the section is "guilty of an offence," according to the act.

A spokesman for Elections Canada, John Enright, said conflicts over access are usually caused by confusion with the provisions and are typically handled locally.

Ashley Lemire, spokeswoman for DND, said that all defence installations are only open to the public "with the express approval of the authorized commanding officer."

"While the regimental museum may be open to the public during specified times set out by the commanding officer, these are not 'public' buildings," she said. 

'A pre-emptive strike'

Casey said the Privy Council Office called his Truro campaign office after he'd left for the armoury. He said his volunteer staff were told Casey wasn't allowed to visit that day. 

"They knew I was going and they tried a pre-emptive strike to stop me," Casey said.

"I've filed a complaint with Canada Elections and we've also filed some access to information to find out who said what and when."

Casey is running in Cumberland-Colchester against Conservative incumbent Scott Armstrong, New Democrat Wendy Robinson, Green candidate Jason Blanch and Independent Kenneth Jackson.

Casey is the former Tory MP for the area who was expelled from the Conservative Party eight years ago after voting against the 2007 budget.

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