Liberal Party should pay for partisan postcard, says Tory MLA

Two Liberal MLAs have spent thousands of dollars on a campaign to celebrate a controversial decision to replace a school not on the Halifax board's wish list for new construction.

Lena Diab, Brendan Maguire spent $3.5K on postcard touting new J.L. Ilsley High School

This postcard is being delivered to thousands of homes in Immigration Minister Lena Diab's constituency. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Thousands of postcards are being delivered, courtesy of the taxpayer, to homes in Halifax celebrating a controversial decision to build a new school in the community of Spryfield.

But one Progressive Conservative MLA said if Liberals want to tout the replacement of J.L. Ilsley High School, the party should be picking up the tab.

J.L. Ilsley has undergone millions of dollars in renovations in recent years. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

"They shouldn't be sending out partisan postcards with taxpayers' money to begin with," said Tim Houston, the member for Pictou East. "That should never happen."

In Immigration Minister Lena Diab's riding of Halifax Armdale, some 7,300 postcards are being dropped in mailboxes. The mailouts feature Diab's contact information, eight smiling faces and the message: "Congrats J.L. Ilsley! We did it."

3.5K worth of postcards

Next door, in the riding of Halifax Atlantic — which is home to J.L. Ilsley — Liberal backbencher Brendan Maguire is sending out 9,000 postcards bearing the message that a new facility will soon replace the high school, which "is looking a little dated."

Between the two of them, the Liberal politicians are spending about $3,500 on the postcards.​

Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire's postcard. He celebrated the announcement of the new school on Twitter, calling it the "proudest moment" of his career. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

"Now that they've done it, the horse is out of the barn, but at a minimum they should be paying that back," said Houston, who added the mailouts are "offensive" given that J.L. Ilsley wasn't on the Halifax Regional School Board's wish list for new schools.

Education Minister Karen Casey, who is pictured on Diab's postcard, defended the decision to override the board's wishes last week, saying a new school is needed because it's unclear whether renovations would resolve the current building's problems.

Sends wrong message

Houston said the postcards send the wrong message.

Progressive Conservative MLA Tim Houston says the Liberal Party should pick up the tab for the postcards, not taxpayers. (Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party)

"What does it say to all those people in those communities that are also in need of a school, have a high-ranked project by a school board, and are getting looked over, time and time again?" he said.

In opposition, the Liberals were critical of the previous NDP government for spending money on what they considered partisan ads touting the province's shipbuilding industry.

Neither Diab nor Maguire was available for comment Wednesday.