Beleaguered pre­mier

McNeil says he feels “un­der at­tack” from Tories.

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page -

Nova Sco­tia Pre­mier Stephen McNeil says his cam­paign com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor re­signed be­cause he felt “un­der at­tack’’ af­ter the Tories ques­tioned the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of hir­ing some­one con­victed of do­mes­tic as­sault.

The res­ig­na­tion by com­mu­ni­ca­tions aide Ky­ley Harris on Tues­day came a day af­ter the Lib­er­als dropped Pic­tou East can­di­date Matthew MacKnight over 2013 com­ments on so­cial me­dia.

McNeil said he didn’t talk to Harris be­fore he re­signed and added the aide had made a per­sonal de­ci­sion.

“I be­lieve he thought the is­sue that was brought forward was used by other po­lit­i­cal par­ties to at­tack my record,’’ said McNeil. “My record on women, I’m very proud of it — it stands by it­self — and he (Harris) needed to con­tinue to try to put his life back to­gether and he wanted to do it out­side the public eye.’’

In a let­ter to cam­paign chair­man Chris MacInnes, Harris said he had tried to make amends, but “it is clear that is not pos­si­ble in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.’’

Harris said he can ac­cept that he will con­tinue to be pun­ished for the 2014 in­ci­dent, but did not want his col­leagues and McNeil “to bear that bur­den any longer.’’

MacKnight was ousted late Mon­day as a can­di­date in the May 30 elec­tion af­ter MacInnes said he was made aware of un­spec­i­fied “highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate’’ com­ments.

MacKnight is­sued a brief state­ment Tues­day say­ing he takes full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the tweets and didn’t in­tend for them to be deroga­tory or hurt­ful.

MacKnight apol­o­gized to two groups that rep­re­sent peo­ple with Down syn­drome, say­ing “it was an im­ma­ture com­ment’’ that was not meant to be ma­li­cious.

“I can­not be­lieve I made such com­ments. I have grown and ma­tured as a per­son since that in­ci­dent,’’ MacKnight said in the state­ment.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Jamie Bail­lie en­dorsed the de­ci­sion to re­move MacKnight.

“His com­ments were not only of­fen­sive, they were mean­spir­ited and tar­geted or made light of the sit­u­a­tion of some of our most vul­ner­a­ble Nova Sco­tians,’’ he said Tues­day. “It’s be­com­ing a bit of a cir­cus show com­ing out of the pre­mier’s of­fice, to be per­fectly blunt.’’

He said it was ap­pro­pri­ate for Harris to quit be­cause his ac­tions “lower the dig­nity of the of­fice of the pre­mier’’ and send a hurt­ful mes­sage to vic­tims of do­mes­tic abuse.

“You’re send­ing a mes­sage to all Nova Sco­tians by that hir­ing that is one of despair for so many sur­vivors of do­mes­tic as­sault who be­lieve their govern­ment is not there for them,’’ he said.

NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill said en­gag­ing Harris in a key cam­paign role, cou­pled with McNeil’s ear­lier com­ments about women and winnable rid­ings, has “put the pre­mier in a po­si­tion where there are ques­tions that rea­son­able peo­ple would like to have an­swered.’’

Stephen McNeil

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