Nova Scotia

N.S. government settles lawsuit with former senior lawyer

A long-running legal battle that pitted a former senior Nova Scotia government lawyer against the premier and attorney general is over.

Alex Cameron abruptly retired in 2017, announced intention to sue province

Former attorney general Diana Whalen, left, and then premier Stephen McNeil were targeted in Alex Cameron's lawsuit against the Nova Scotia government. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press/Robert Short/CBC)

A long-running legal battle that pitted a former senior Nova Scotia government lawyer against the premier and the attorney general is over.

But no one is saying exactly how or when the matter was resolved.

Alex M. Cameron conducted civil litigation for the province until April 2017, when he abruptly retired and served notice he intended to sue the province, then premier Stephen McNeil and his attorney general, Diana Whalen.

Cameron accused them of defamation, abuse of public office, constructive dismissal and violation of his constitutional rights.

At issue were legal arguments that Cameron advanced on behalf of the province in a case involving the Sipekne'katik First Nation. Sipekne'katik had launched an appeal in Nova Scotia Supreme Court of a decision by the provincial Environment Department to allow the underground storage of natural gas in Alton, N.S.

In his brief, Cameron argued the province did not have a duty to consult Sipekne'katik on its Alton gas decision. Or if it did, he argued the province had already met that duty.

The Sipekne'katik flag flies at an Alton Gas protest site in 2017. (Robert Short/CBC)

When news of Cameron's arguments broke, it touched off a political furor, with McNeil, Whalen and others claiming Cameron had acted on his own and gone far beyond the government's position.

The politicians also claimed they had no prior knowledge of what Cameron intended to do in this case.

Those public comments led to Cameron's lawsuit, which dragged through the courts for years, even reaching the Supreme Court of Canada.

One of the outstanding issues was whether Cameron could use internal government communications to bolster his case. The province tried to claim those communications were covered by privilege, but that argument was rejected by the courts.

Under questioning by reporters Thursday, Premier Tim Houston said he believed the legal dispute had been settled, but he offered no details. A spokesperson for the provincial Justice Department confirmed a settlement, but would not comment further.

Efforts by CBC News to reach Cameron or his lawyer for comment were unsuccessful.

Both McNeil and Whalen are retired from politics. The company behind the proposal to store natural gas underground at Alton has abandoned the project.