Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the  independent MLA for Cumberland North, has told reporters her lawyer is filing a court challenge to a motion brought forward by the Progressive Conservatives to expel her from the legislature.

That’s motion demands that Smith-McCrossin retract her accusation a former staffer with the PC caucus was “coerced” into signing a non-disclosure agreement with the PC caucus.

Smith-McCrossin says the threat to throw her out for making these comments in the legislature has no precedent in Canada.

Liberal and NDP leaders also accuse the PCs of “overreach” in using their majority to shut up Smith-McCrossin. 

Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane was the chair of the PC caucus when the staffer, Kaitlin Saxton, is alleged to have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace five years ago.

Saxton left her job at about the same time former PC leader Jamie Baillie was ousted by the caucus for inappropriate behaviour that included sexual harassment. 

Tuesday, Status of Women minister MacFarlane and Premier Tim Houston both told journalists the purpose of Monday’s notice of motion asking Smith-McCrossin to retract her claim was to “set the record straight” and to show that Smith-McCrossin had no such NDA document signed between the PC caucus and Saxton.

Until Smith-McCrossin raised the issue with the support of Saxton’s parents, few Nova Scotians were aware Saxton, who worked seven years as a PC researcher, had died suddenly last June of a brain hemorrhage. 

All political leaders have used the words ”tragic” to describe what happened and the fact Saxton is now being used as a political football in a dispute over whether to pass legislation aimed at restricting how NDAs can be used in cases involving workplace harassment. 

MacFarlane left the legislature visibly shaken after a briefing with reporters in which she said it’s possible the PC caucus may decide to withdraw the notice of motion to expel Smith-McCrossin, who was initially elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA.

“Right now as a team we are still discussing that, as the premier alluded to,” said MacFarlane. “At the end of the day, this is a very emotionally charged issue that is opening up old wounds. There is still a healing process and many are still grieving. Today, it’s political manoeuvring and the only victim here is the individual who doesn’t have a voice.” 

That irony seems lost on Justice Minister Brad Johns, who says the issue is “complicated” and the PCs will not rush to pass the NDP bill that would restrict the use of NDAs unless a complainant had first received legal advice. The bill does not ban NDAs but proposes safeguards on how they can be used to buy someone’s silence.

That bill was introduced a year ago. The government says it has expanded the scope of its research into the use of NDAs by American states as well as Canadian provinces and the review will take more time. 

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. Real nice. The PCs are pissed at her again and threaten to kick he out of the House of Assembly. That’s rich. Careful or we will be singing the glories of the Fascist Regime.

  2. She did table a copy, and it is a blank, with no signatures, and no mention of Jamie Baillie, Karla MacFarlane, or the PC caucus.
    Sounds like the highway blockade stunt all over again, she accuses them of being involved and in on it, and they demand her apology and give her the boot.

  3. It would be interesting to see the NDA that Kaitlin Saxton signed. Did Smith-McCrossin table a copy?