McNeil says he feels “under attack” from Tories.
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.’’