Nova Sco­tia premier de­fends re­in­state­ment of top aide who as­saulted woman

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton -

For the sec­ond time in four days, Nova Sco­tia Premier Stephen McNeil was forced off mes­sage Thurs­day to de­fend him­self from at­tacks on gen­der­re­lated is­sues.

At a cam­paign stop in Hal­i­fax, McNeil said Lib­eral com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Ky­ley Har­ris de­served “a sec­ond chance’’ after be­ing handed a con­di­tional dis­charge for strik­ing a woman in the face dur­ing a do­mes­tic ar­gu­ment on May 9, 2014.

Har­ris was a spokesman for McNeil at the time, but was fired after wait­ing four days to tell the govern­ment he was fac­ing an as­sault charge.

Har­ris was hired back in 2015 to do re­search in the Lib­eral cau­cus of­fice and is now listed as di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the cen­tral cam­paign in the runup to the May 30 pro­vin­cial vote.

The mat­ter resur­faced after fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive Leader Rona Am­brose posted on so­cial media Wed­nes­day say­ing Har­ris’s re-hir­ing sends a “ter­ri­ble mes­sage,’’ and that Lib­eral lead­ers “need to walk the talk on vi­o­lence against women.’’

When asked about it Thurs­day, Nova Sco­tia Tory Leader Jamie Bail­lie said McNeil had ex­er­cised poor judg­ment in put­ting Har­ris back into his in­ner cir­cle.

“When the premier chooses to reem­ploy a per­son who pled guilty to a do­mes­tic as­sault I have to ques­tion his judg­ment. I think it shows poor judg­ment,’’ Bail­lie said. “It sends a ter­ri­ble mes­sage to vic­tims of do­mes­tic as­sault, men and women, who feel the sys­tem of govern­ment isn’t there for them.’’

In re­sponse, McNeil said he was proud of his party’s record on sup­port­ing vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, but that peo­ple shouldn’t be held back be­cause of their past ac­tions.

“Peo­ple de­serve a sec­ond chance and Mr. Har­ris is one of those Nova Sco­tians,’’ he said, while dis­miss­ing Am­brose’s re­marks. ``As far as the na­tional leader’s com­ments, that’s her com­ment.’’

McNeil added that Har­ris was not part of ei­ther his govern­ment or in­ner cir­cle as Bail­lie had charged.

After plead­ing guilty, Har­ris was sen­tenced to nine months’ pro­ba­tion and 30 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice. He read a state­ment in court say­ing his ac­tions were “in­ex­cus­able and dis­grace­ful.’’

“I made an un­for­giv­able mis­take and I am sorry,’’ he said at the time.

NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill pointed out Thurs­day the Har­ris con­tro­versy comes days after the premier drew fire for com­ments about run­ning women in rid­ings that were ``winnable.’’

“Mr. Har­ris’s ap­point­ment raises hon­est ques­tions for peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly women around the prov­ince, and th­ese are ques­tions that it would be rea­son­able for us to ex­pect Mr. McNeil to an­swer,’’ he said.

McNeil was ques­tioned Mon­day about why only 12 of the party’s 51 can­di­dates for the May 30 elec­tion are women, but the Lib­eral leader in­sisted his party “has stood be­side women to have them elected in mean­ing­ful rid­ings.’’

Bur­rill pointed out 24 of his party’s 51 can­di­dates are women, while Bail­lie stood Mon­day with 12 fe­male can­di­dates and de­manded McNeil apol­o­gize for his “thought­less and dis­mis­sive com­ments.’’


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