Nova Scotia

PCs may offer sensitivity training after MLA's comments labelled racist

The interim leader of the Nova Scotia PC Party says cultural-sensitivity training may be offered to its 16 MLAs after a comment made by one of them was labelled as racist.

'I'm very proud of our province and everyone that's in it,' says interim leader Karla MacFarlane

Interim PC Leader Karla MacFarlane says the party is a firm believer that diversity makes the province stronger. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The interim leader of the PC Party says cultural-sensitivity training may be offered to its 16 MLAs after a comment made by one of them was labelled as racist.

According to the Hansard transcripts, the MLA for Cumberland North, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, was speaking against the legalization of cannabis on Tuesday when she said:

"I have a best friend in Amherst who is from Jamaica. She said to me, Elizabeth, smoking marijuana in Jamaica is completely accepted, and there's a completely different work ethic and very low productivity in Jamaica. I think we already have a productivity problem here in Nova Scotia. We do not need something else making it worse."

Smith-McCrossin issues a 2nd apology

Smith-McCrossin, who is one of five leadership candidates for the top PC job, said she was sorry if her comments "were hurtful" in a Wednesday Facebook post.

In a separate post Thursday, she said her apology was "without reservation or qualification; it is from the heart."

On Thursday night, interim leader Karla MacFarlane issued a statement disavowing her colleague.

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin has written two apologies on Facebook for her comments. (CBC)

"I think it's important for Nova Scotians and [for people] beyond Nova Scotia to realize that we are a party that believes that cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, it makes our province stronger," she said in an interview with CBC News.

"I've always been a firm believer of that and I'm very proud of our province and everyone that's in it."

Before MacFarlane became the interim leader, she publicly supported leadership candidate Tim Houston. She said that once she became the interim leader she became neutral, so the decision to issue a statement had nothing to do with supporting Houston.

Timeline for PC response

MacFarlane said she was seated in front of Smith-McCrossin in the legislature when she made the comments on Tuesday. MacFarlane said she spoke with her immediately afterwards.

"I just said, 'Elizabeth ... I understand your analogy and what you were trying to express.' I said, 'It's amazing how powerful words can be, but I think that we are going to have to sit down with communications,'" said MacFarlane.

From there, a caucus meeting was held on Wednesday to discuss the matter and a conference call was held with PC MLAs on Thursday night before the statement was issued, said MacFarlane.

Different PC MLA brings up Africa

At Tuesday's legislature session, PC MLA Barbara Adams also made comments regarding marijuana, specifically its impacts on health.

"More than 95 per cent of the world's population now are already breathing unhealthy air," she said according to the Hansard transcript.

Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage MLA Barbara Adams issued an apology for comments she made about Africa during the marijuana debate. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

"The only really healthy thing about going to Africa is that I actually got to be in healthy air because they don't have any industry there to pollute."

She apologized for the comments on Thursday on Facebook.

"I never should have tried to connect my mission to Africa to a debate in the House of Assembly," she wrote.

MacFarlane said she didn't single out Adams because she didn't receive any calls or emails about her comment.

With files from Shaina Luck