Two photos are put together side by side. On the left a man and woman wearing sunglasses stand in front of an old aquaduct on a bright day. On the right, a man in a grey suit, white shirt and blue and white tie speaks with a flash of red behind his left shoulder.
Andrew and Nicole Gnazdowsky (left) and Liberal leader Iain Rankin. Photos: Contributed/Zane Woodford Credit: Contributed/Zane Woodford

Liberal leader Iain Rankin called the RCMP after a chance encounter with a constituent on Sunday.

Nicole Gnazdowsky ran into Rankin at a park in the former premier’s Timberlea-Prospect riding on Sunday afternoon. Both Gnazdowsky and Rankin brought their dogs to the park to play fetch, but when Gnazdowsky spotted her MLA, she approached him to ask some questions about the investigation into her brother’s workplace death.

As the Halifax Examiner has reported, Gnazdowsky’s brother Andrew died at a Nova Scotia Power site near Sheet Harbour in October 2020, and she’s been fighting for answers ever since. Meeting resistance at every turn, she’s concluded that the provincial Department of Labour “botched” the investigation after she identified a potential conflict of interest and a flawed medical examiner’s report.

Since then, the department has stopped communicating with Gnazdowsky, labelling her a “hostile individual” in documents uncovered through freedom of information, as reported by Lyndsay Armstrong at The Coast. Last week, the Examiner reported that Gnazdowsky’s family has started legal action against the provincial government in the case.

Throughout her quest for answers, Gnazdowsky has sought accountability from Rankin, who was until late-August the premier of Nova Scotia, and is Gnazdowsky’s MLA. They had one phone call in March, and afterward, Rankin set up a meeting with Duff Montgomerie, then-deputy minister of the department, its highest-ranking bureaucrat. That meeting didn’t go well, as the Examiner reported previously:

“He came into the room and knew not a single detail about my brother’s case, like didn’t even know the date,” Gnazdowsky said of Montgomerie.

“He sat cross-legged leaned back in his chair, arms crossed with a smirk on his face the entire conversation as I’m pleading for him and his senior officials to do something about the people who work below them who have allowed this investigation to get to the point that it requires me to be involved.”

After the meeting, Gnazdowsky emailed Montgomerie to express her dissatisfaction. He replied with an attached PDF on dealing with the grieving process.

Someone recently told Gnazdowsky an old saying: “A fish always rots at the head.”

“And in that meeting, Duff Montgomerie proved that the Department of Labour is rotten beyond at the head,” she said.

“The bare minimum as a person that you could have provided, Duff, would be some kindness, some compassion, some commitment to fix these issues, but they’re not getting fixed because Duff Montgomerie doesn’t care.”

After the meeting, Gnazdowsky continued to call and email Rankin, and during the election she showed up at his constituency office, but she never heard back again.

When she saw him on Sunday, then, Gnazdowsky had questions.

“I’ve been trying to get in contact with Iain for months and he’s never, ever tried to reach out, and I pulled up into the parking lot, and I look in the mirror and I see Rankin is right beside me,” Gnazdowsky said in an interview on Monday. “So of course I’m going to go and talk to him.”

The Examiner has seen a video of the interaction. Standing between Rankin and his vehicle, Gnazdowsky filmed with her phone as she scolded Rankin for his inaction and asked him to help her. Rankin said he did help her, getting her the meeting with Montgomerie and the other officials in the Department of Labour. Gnazdowsky asked Rankin to get her a meeting with the new deputy minister in the department, and Rankin said he’s not in government any more.

Rankin pleaded with Gnazdowsky to get out of the way of the driver’s side door to his vehicle. Gnazdowsky refused, but he was able to access the rear doors and get his dog out of the vehicle. The Liberal leader eventually made a phone call. Another vehicle arrived shortly after and Rankin picked up his dog and walked toward it before the video ended. Gnazdowsky said he left.

After Rankin left, Gnazdowsky said she took her dog to the field at the park and played fetch and then went home.

Once home, she got a phone call from a Const. Wagner with the Tantallon RCMP detachment. The Examiner has listened to a recording of the call.

“You can’t communicate with him when he’s out walking his dog,” Wagner told Gnazdowsky. “You have to go through the proper channels.”

Gnazdowsky repeatedly asked Wagner how the RCMP has her phone number, and Wagner said it’s “irrelevant.”

Gnazdowsky asked for Wagner’s supervisor, and then got a call from a Cpl. Simm. Quickly becoming frustrated with Gnazdowsky for questioning why the RCMP were calling her, Simm raised his voice. He told her she’s allowed to communicate with her MLA, but not the way she did on Sunday.

“I don’t think I’m being that unreasonable, just trying to understand, is this normal? Because people have been kind of rude to me sometimes out in public, but I’m never calling the police about it. It seemed like an intimidation tactic or something,” Gnazdowsky told the Examiner.

“I’m not a large human with the RCMP force behind me and power behind me, so it’s scary to be in this spot. When the RCMP are supposed to be the ones that you call when you need help, and the RCMP are calling you and yelling at you, it’s uneasy, for sure.”

In a statement sent to the Examiner on Monday, Rankin wrote:

Ms. Gnazdowsky and her family have suffered a tragic loss, and they have always had my deepest sympathies. As the MLA for Ms. Gnazdowsky, I have taken her concerns seriously and have done my very best to make sure she feels heard as the investigation into her brother’s death continues.

Yesterday I had a chance encounter with Ms. Gnazdowsky while at a local ball field. At the end of our conversation and when trying to leave, I was repeatedly blocked from entering my vehicle by Ms. Gnazdowsky. Based on the nature of the interaction and the advice of independent provincial government security staff, I was advised to contact RCMP, which I did.

Again, my sincerest sympathies to the Gnazdowsky family during this difficult time in their lives.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Iain Rankin has done little other than embarrass himself since becoming premier. A more appropriate election outcome would have seen him lead the Liberals to third party status and lose his seat.

  2. Such a brave soul, Rankin is (*sarcasm). Until he resigns as liberal leader, the party shall remain in opposition (and rightly so even for this member of the Liberal party). He is a disgrace and a petty little man.