Nova Scotia

New Democrat MLA Tammy Martin resigns from Cape Breton Centre seat

The Nova Scotia NDP has been dealt another blow with the sudden resignation of Cape Breton Centre MLA Tammy Martin, who is leaving politics, primarily for health reasons.

Departure will leave NDP caucus with just four seats in the Nova Scotia legislature

NDP MLA Tammy Martin was first elected in 2017. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Nova Scotia's NDP caucus continues to shrink. A third New Democrat MLA has quit, leaving the party with just four seats at Province House, all of them in the Halifax area.

Cape Breton Centre representative Tammy Martin announced Monday she is leaving provincial politics, citing health reasons. She did not make herself available to answer questions about her decision, leaving it to caucus to make the announcement by news release.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I announce that I will be resigning as MLA effective February 6, 2020," she said in the statement.

"Since the summer, I have been dealing with some ongoing health issues that have not subsided. After discussions with my family, I have made the very difficult decision to step down in order to prioritize my health."

Leader Gary Burrill spoke about the sudden departure, but also refused to be specific.

"Tammy has been dealing with some issues about her health for some time and has decided after a long, hard consideration that this is the road she needs to go down and I and our caucus have enough respect for Tammy to receive this decision with respect," he said at Province House.

Burrill says resignation not tied to party matters

Burrill said Martin's sudden departure was not as a result of a disagreement over the party's direction or his leadership. He also suggested the loss of a third MLA in less than three years would not hamper his party's quest for government.

"I'm old enough to remember that we were four MLAs when we went into the great breakthrough election of 1998 and we did that at that time by placing front and centre the things that were front and centre for the people, the province," he said.

"Those things today are the health-care crisis, the very difficult situation with family incomes and the emergency in climate change."

He said those issues would continue to be the focus for his smaller caucus.

Although the party did elect 19 MLAs in the 1998 election, tying the number of Liberals in the House, New Democrats had to wait another 11 years to make the leap from the opposition benches to government and ended up with 31 seats.

The party lost 24 seats in the 2013 vote, which saw the government of Darrell Dexter dumped from office.

In the 2017 provincial election, seven New Democrats were again elected to the House of Assembly.

Recent resignations

Party stalwart Dave Wilson resigned in November 2018 to take on a new job as director of provincial 911 services at the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office. Lenore Zann left the party in June 2019 to run as a Liberal in the federal election. She was elected as federal MP for Cumberland-Colchester.

Martin, a former union staffer, was first elected in 2017. She ran in a byelection in 2015 and lost to Liberal David Wilton. She beat him in their 2017 rematch, taking almost 44 per cent of the vote.

With Martin's impending departure, the party has not had this small a caucus in more than two decades. In 1998, the party was represented in the House by former leader Robert Chisholm, Eileen O'Connell, John Holm and Helen MacDonald.

Between 1993 and 1997, the party held fewer seats, dropping to just two between October 1995 and November 1996 when Alexa McDonough resigned to seek the leadership of the federal NDP.

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