Nova Scotia

Premier suggests MLAs who keep jobs and run federally are unprincipled

Premier Stephen McNeil says his government will change a law that allows provincial representatives to remain MLAs even as they campaign for federal office.

'When you seek another job, you should do the right thing: step down,' says Stephen McNeil

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says his government will change a law that allows provincial representatives to remain MLAs even as they campaign for federal office. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is blasting four MLAs who plan to keep their jobs, even after they are nominated by their parties to run in this fall's federal election.

On June 9, longtime NDP MLA Lenore Zann announced she was going to sit as an independent and would seek the federal Liberal nomination in Cumberland-Colchester. Zann joins Tory MLAs Alfie MacLeod, Eddie Orrell and Chris d'Entremont, who also plan to run in the upcoming federal election.

"I know there's potentially four MLAs who, potentially could sit here for months, continue to increase their pensions, continue to take taxpayers money, as they campaign for another federal taxpayers job," said McNeil. "[It] makes absolutely no sense."

The problem stems from a provision in a provincial law dating back to 1937.

According to the House of Assembly Act, an MLA's seat is considered vacated when the member "causes, suffers or permits himself" to be nominated as a federal candidate.

'Convenient interpretation' of law, says premier

Because the law didn't spell out what nominated meant, candidates have been advised to refer to the Canada Elections Act, which defines a nominated candidate as one officially recognized by a returning officer after official papers are filed. Those forms could be filed as late as 21 days before election day.

McNeil said traditionally MLAs have resigned their seats as soon as their party selected them to run.

MLA Lenore Zann is the fourth Nova Scotia MLA who has announced they plan to run for federal office in the upcoming election. (Robert Short/CBC)

"The interpretation of this law is a convenient interpretation, in my view, not what is the principled interpretation," he said.

"When you seek another job, you should do the right thing: step down."

Law change coming, says McNeil

McNeil said his government will change the law.

He said members of his caucus are clear where he stands on the issue. 

"If they won a nomination, it didn't matter when the prime minister signed the nomination, they were finished," he said.

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