Nova Scotia's Speaker of the House says he signed letter agreeing to resign next spring
Keith Bain says the premier asked him to commit to leaving his job
The Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature says he signed a document Wednesday in Premier Tim Houston's office in which he pledges to resign by next April 1.
Keith Bain told reporters Thursday at Province House that he thought those discussions were private and there was room for continued negotiation.
But the Progressive Conservative caucus issued a news release Thursday announcing the resignation, along with other caucus changes.
"It hurt to see the press release that was out there after my conversation yesterday," said Bain.
"I'm close to retirement. I don't need to be fighting with anybody."
The issue of Bain's future has spilled into the public view in the last few weeks after it was learned the premier wanted him to step aside in favour of someone else from the Tory caucus. On Wednesday, Houston suggested reporters were manufacturing the story.
Putting the government 'in a hard spot'
Bain said Houston asked for his resignation because several of his past rulings put Houston and the government "in a hard spot."
Those rulings included stiffening public health protocols at the legislature last spring during a COVID-19 outbreak, and requesting a legally required review of MLA salaries following the last provincial election.
"But he also said that, after a year in government, it's time for changes. And he said, 'We'd like for you to resign as Speaker.'"
Until now, Bain has resisted that call. The Speaker is elected by secret ballot by all members of the legislature. As such, it's up to MLAs, not the premier, to accept the resignation.
"It was my understanding that that letter was going to be held."
The premier's office did not release the letter to reporters, despite requests.
Houston downplayed the situation.
"I would say this whole situation has been definitely overblown, in my eyes, for sure," he told reporters.
Houston would also not say if he asked Bain to quit or received a resignation.
"These are private discussions," he said. "We'll always maintain private discussions. That's the way I conduct myself."
Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said Bain is being put in an unfair position and being pushed to resign because he's not been partisan enough for the premier's liking.
"This is the same pattern of behaviour, I think, we've seen with other individuals within the public service or Crown corporations: if you disagree with this premier, you're fired, you're gone," he said.
"That should be a frightening prospect for people. If vindictiveness is a driving factor when it comes to decision making when you have a majority government and power, that can be a very dangerous thing."
'Like out of a bad movie'
NDP Leader Claudia Chender called the situation deeply troubling.
"I think that this is a new low," she said.
It's a convention that the Speaker acts independently, said Chender. She noted that 1875 was the last time the House forced out a Speaker and said it's inappropriate for Houston to try to do so now.
"It is like out of a bad movie," she said.
"I think it's a pattern of behaviour where the premier wants his friends to be running the show in every part of government and public service that he can possibly reach."
The government gave notice Thursday that it would be moving to add three additional deputy speakers — all from the Tory caucus. MLAs Danielle Barkhouse, Kent Smith and Nolan Young will join current deputy speakers Lisa Lachance (NDP) and Angela Simmonds (Liberal).
Simmonds, the legislature's first Black deputy speaker, called the move "deflating."