Nova Scotia

'All the sordid details': PR gurus advise PCs to tell full story about Jamie Baillie

There will be more political scandal in Canadian and Nova Scotian politics as women begin to feel safer coming forward with their stories, predicts Mount Saint Vincent University professor Barbara Emodi.

'It’s done. Why let this be a three-week or a month-long story?' communications expert says

Jamie Baillie resigned as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia at the party's request, following an investigation into allegations of harassment. (CBC)

Some Halifax communications experts praised the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives for dealing swiftly with a complaint of sexual harassment against the party's former leader and MLA Jamie Baillie.

But university professors Barbara Emodi and Michelle Coffin and public relations practitioner Chris Lydon said the party didn't go far enough in divulging what actually happened in the events that led up to the complaint and Baillie's subsequent exit from the party and politics. They were participating in CBC Mainstreet's Spinbusters segment, which aired Thursday. 

"This is not going to be overcome … until everything is out, every question is answered," said Lydon, regional senior vice-president at m5 Public Affairs.

'Every possible detail'

He urged the Conservatives to come clean about the scandal.

"Be completely transparent on what process the party followed. Be completely transparent on the final report, including all of the sordid details — the time, severity, were there other allegations, every possible detail that could come out with perhaps the exception of the accuser's name."

Lydon said he is friends with both the accuser and Baillie and said it's "just a heartbreaking thing to have to see so close."

Barbara Emodi, who teaches communications at Mount Saint Vincent University, predicts there will be more women speaking out about sexual harassment, which she said has been rife in Nova Scotia politics.

"I think we should all brace ourselves for a domino effect because it's going to happen," said Emodi, who was also a staffer with the provincial New Democratic Party.

'Rumours are always worse'

She said the PC caucus office handled the complaint in a responsible way but "the communication has not been very good." Emodi compared Baillie's exit with that of Ontario Conservative Party Leader Patrick Brown, who resigned early Thursday in the wake of allegations of sexual impropriety.

"He had his story, he told it himself and he told it immediately."

She said Baillie should do the same.

Patrick Brown stepped down early Thursday as Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader after two women accused him of sexual misconduct. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

"If you've behaved improperly … apologize and take full responsibility. Or like Brown, if you feel you did not do anything improper, then you come out and do that," she said.

"To say, 'Leave me alone,' that's not an option because that adds legs to the story. For the sake of his own reputation, he needs to be open about it because the rumours are always worse."

"There's no protecting Baillie or his family," Lydon said. "It's done. Why let this be a three-week or a month-long story?"

PC reaction shows 'progress'

Coffin, who teaches political science at Saint Mary's University, compared the Conservatives' response with her experience with the Liberal government when one of Premier Stephen McNeil's campaign officials was charged with assaulting her. Kyley Harris pleaded guilty and was given a conditional discharge in 2015.

"In my case, the Liberals were very tone deaf. They continue to be very tone deaf, dealing with my experience. In fact, they sided with the individual that assaulted me," she said.

"The PCs took a very different approach, a couple of years after my experience. The PCs are protecting the [complainant] involved. They removed Jamie from his role and they went public to try to manage the situation. So from my vantage point, that's progress."