Nova Scotia

N.S. cabinet minister resigns after bathroom fight

Nova Scotia MLA Percy Paris has resigned from cabinet after a scuffle in the men's bathroom at the provincial legislature on Thursday afternoon.

'I was assaulted,' Liberal MLA says, after altercation with the NDP's Percy Paris

Raw: Percy Paris

10 years ago
Duration 4:36
Nova Scotia's Tourism Minister describes an altercation in the house before meeting with police.

Nova Scotia MLA Percy Paris has resigned from cabinet after a scuffle in the men's bathroom at the provincial legislature on Thursday afternoon.

Halifax police have charged the 65-year-old, who is the NDP's tourism and economic development minister, with assault and uttering threats against a Liberal MLA.

Officers were initially called to Province House after a member accused Paris of assaulting him during a heated altercation in the men's washroom.

Liberal Keith Colwell told police he was grabbed and shoved against a wall.

"I feel I was assaulted," he said. "I've filed a police report, and I'd just like to leave it at that."

The dispute continued into the members' chambers and was witnessed by Progressive Conservative MLA Allan MacMaster.

Paris said he "lost his cool" and insinuated that the altercation was connected to comments about the black community made in the house earlier in the day that "didn't sit well" with him.

'Everybody has the right to go to work and feel safe, and be safe, and that's the point of the motion.'—MLA Keith Colwell

"Usually, I'm a composed individual, and under the circumstances, in the heat of the moment, I lost it briefly," he said.

Colwell had asked the Speaker to admonish Paris. He later dropped the request and agreed to have the matter sent to the internal affairs committee.

"The point of the motion is that everybody has the right to go to work and feel safe, and be safe, and that's the point of the motion," he said.

"This has long-term effects on the legislature, and it's important that you can go to work and feel safe at your work and that's totally what it's about."

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the altercation between the two 65-year-old men reflected poorly on the legislature.

Cabinet shuffle results

"I just want to say, as someone who has only been here a short time. I’m embarrassed. I’m very embarrassed as an MLA. I’m sure all Nova Scotians today are waking up and watching the news, listening to the news, reading the newspaper, and they’re embarrassed, too."

Paris's resignation came as a surprise, as the province gears up for an election this year.

Premier Darrell Dexter released a statement accepting Paris's resignation around midnight. He said he doesn't know what transpired between the two politicians and didn't ask during a brief conversation with Paris Thursday night.

The premier said in the end he still has faith in Paris and he is welcome to run under the NDP banner in the next election.

"We're not underplaying the seriousness of it, but at the same time we're not going to over-exaggerate it either. We're going to let the course of events take its place. He's not going to be suspended from our caucus," he said.

On Friday morning, Dexter announced former finance minister Graham Steele would return to cabinet as the minister of economic development and tourism. He gave Maureen MacDonald the African Nova Scotian affairs portfolio.

Paris is due in provincial court on June 18.

Halifax police said he must abide by standard conditions, which include keeping the peace and being on good behaviour. He must also stay away from his alleged victim, except for incidental contact at their place of employment.

No special treatment

Const. Pierre Bourdages said there's nothing special about the way Paris is being treated.

"The fact that the victim or suspect might be a little more known than any other file doesn't make any difference in our work," he said.

He said the force has plenty of experience with assault files, and the investigating officer treated this one the same as any other.

Paris continues to represent the Waverley-Fall River-Beaverbank riding.

The spring session is scheduled to conclude on Friday.

The last Nova Scotia MLA to be sanctioned for attacking another politician was PC Mike Laffin, who was suspended for 14 days in the 1970s.