Cape Breton Post
Tories turf MLA Smith-McCrossin from caucus.
HALIFAX — MLA Elizabeth SmithMcCrossin’s role in the Highway 104 blockade crossed a party line that convinced the Progressive Conservatives to unceremoniously remove her from caucus Thursday.
“The more details that I learned about how the blockade transpired, what happened at the blockade, the more I learned from Elizabeth about her involvement, the more obvious it became that it is not anything that I support, it is not anything that the PC caucus supports,” PC Leader Tim Houston said in a noon-hour Zoom news conference Thursday.
Houston had said Wednesday afternoon he did not support a highway blockade but that he did support Smith-McCrossin’s efforts to stand up for her Cumberland North constituents and to encourage Premier Iain Rankin to explain his flip-flop on cross-border travel between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that precipitated the blockade.
Houston said Thursday that his expressed support for Smith-McCrossin changed as talked with the MLA and the cacus before endorsing the extraordinary step of expelling herThursday morning.
“We had an ask of Elizabeth, we wanted her to take some accountability for her actions and to apologize to Nova Scotians and she wouldn’t do that,” Houston said. “Between learning more and learning where she stood now in hindsight, it’s just not something that we can support as a caucus or that I can support as a Nova Scotian so we took the action to remove her from caucus.”
Although social media posts Tuesday lauded Smith-McCrossin for organizing the highway blockade, the MLA downplayed her role in the protest action on Wednesday, saying she was there Tuesday evening to support her constituents and to make sure everyone remained safe.
“There was more to story than I understood in the beginning,” Houston said. “The more I learned, the more obvious it became that she had a bigger involvement in the blockade than I thought.”
Houston stopped short of saying Smith-McCrossin was one of the organizers of the protest and blockade but said he asked the MLA if the highway was already blocked when she arrived and if she had suggested to protesters that blocking a major highway was a bad idea.
Smith-McCrossin said in a Facebook post Thursday that Houston had asked her to publicly apologize and to “stop expressing my concerns about Premier Iain Rankin and the government.”
“I will never apologize for doing my job to represent my constituents,” Smith-McCrossin wrote in her post.
“My conscience will not allow me to sacrifice fighting for my constituents, the job I was sent to do in 2017, to comply with a party leader, just because he (Houston) changed his mind.”
Houston said “the people will decide how safe any seat is in this province,” as a provincial election looms.
“It will be a tight election,” he said. “To see a seat possibly flip because of this, those aren’t easy decisions. But you have to go back to your principles. This was really a question about leadership. When you are faced with these situations, how do you react? I think I’ve shown throughout my leadership that what matters most to me is that Nova Scotians can trust that I as a leader will make the right decision even if it’s personally harmful to me or to my party. I always put the best interests of Nova Scotians first.”
The decision to expel SmithMcCrossin was based entirely on the events of the past 72 hours, Houston said, alluding to a loss of confidence in the MLA that made the choice to remove her an obvious one.
“We are facing real challenges in this province,” Houston said. “We are building a team to address those challenges. When you are building a team, you rely on each other, you have to have trust in each other. That’s the relationship that we need to face difficult situations.”