Alana Paon says it will be business as usual now that she's an Independent MLA
Former Tory MLA was kicked out of caucus in June
Independent MLA Alana Paon doesn't see her role in the legislature as being any different than when she was a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus, other than possibly having a little more freedom in how she operates.
"My new caucus are actually my constituents and isn't that the way it should always be," the Cape Breton-Richmond MLA said in an interview following the first day of the fall session at the legislature on Thursday.
Tory Leader Tim Houston kicked Paon out of caucus in June following a dispute over her constituency office, which did not meet accessibility requirements.
At the time, Paon said she felt targeted by the Speaker's office and bullied by the House of Assembly management commission, which ordered her to pave the office's gravel driveway or lose funding for her rent. MLA offices are required to be accessible and Paon, who was first elected in 2017, was the only MLA whose office was not in compliance.
When he removed her, Houston called Paon's comments off base and said it was part of a pattern of behaviour he was no longer willing to accept.
"It's not really [a decision] that I agree with, but I'm going to leave it at that for now," Paon said Thursday.
Back to doing house calls
With her rent no longer being paid, Paon was evicted from her constituency office last week.
While she doesn't blame her former landlord for changing the locks after going several months without payment, Paon said she received no notice and her constituency files remain inside the office in secured file cabinets. Her landlord has said he'll turn over the files and office furniture when he gets paid.
That appears unlikely to happen any time soon, as Paon and the Speaker's office are locked in a dispute over who should be paying that back rent.
In the meantime, Paon said she's been able to keep her office phone number, email address and fax number and her constituency assistant continues to take calls and work on files, just not in a physical office.
"I guess at this moment, we're going back to having to make house calls, which I had been doing that anyway as part of my constituency work."
Paon said she will be in Halifax for the entire session. Although she doesn't have caucus or committee obligations, she wants to be as informed as possible. She'll set up meetings in Halifax as necessary. As an Independent MLA, Paon receives funding for an office and assistant in Halifax.
Home is Cape Breton-Richmond
She also addressed questions about her primary residence.
MLAs who live more than 100 kilometres from the legislature receive funding for an apartment in Halifax. Paon, as an "outside MLA," qualifies for that funding. But some people, noting that she has a family cottage within Halifax Regional Municipality, have questioned where she actually lives.
"I live at home and home is Cape Breton-Richmond," she said.
"I can assure constituents and all people in Nova Scotia that I live far beyond the borders of 100 kilometres from the legislature."
She said she's uncomfortable talking about where she lives because of events over the summer. Paon said there have been times where she felt harassed by reporters and other people who would arrive at her cottage or call her mother's house at unusual times.
"That's not part of what I signed up for with this job and no one should have to put up with that kind of thing."
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