N.S. MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin removed from PC Caucus after encouraging blockade
HALIFAX -- The leader of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party has officially removed an MLA from the PC caucus, after she encouraged a protest that blocked the Trans-Canada Highway near Thomson Station, N.S.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, Nova Scotia PC leader Tim Houston announced that Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the MLA representing Cumberland North, has been removed from the PC caucus and will not be permitted to run as a PC in the future.
“I appreciate her frustration and the frustration of everyone affected by the Premier's 11th hour changes,” said Houston in a release. “These changes are a gut punch to people and to businesses in Nova Scotia. As a Caucus, we are focused on holding the Premier to account for his decisions but Ms. Smith-McCrossin’s failure to accept accountability for her actions at the blockade shows a lack of judgment and personal responsibility.”
The decision comes after Smith-McCrossin encouraged people to join in a protest to travel restrictions imposed by Nova Scotia on travellers coming from New Brunswick.
In a video posted to Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, Smith-McCrossin encouraged people to join the protest to shut down the Trans-Canada Highway, until Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin opened the border to travellers from New Brunswick.
"People that hadn't seen their family since November were planning on seeing them tomorrow in fact some people went today thinking that they'll be able to come home tomorrow without having to self-isolate," Smith-McCrossin said at the protest.
The protest, which began Tuesday afternoon, led to a blockade of the Trans-Canada Highway at the border, causing a halt to cross-border traffic for more than 24 hours, with vehicles and protesters blocking the east and westbound lanes near the Nova Scotia Visitor's Centre.
The blockade was opened to traffic as of 10 p.m. Wednesday, after three protesters were arrested by RCMP.
Houston says the decision was made Wednesday night following a virtual meeting with the party, and that he has “full support” of the PC Caucus in removing Smith-McCrossin.
“As colleagues for the past four years, I owed her an opportunity to explain her actions, and the efforts she took to conceal those actions from her Caucus colleagues. Unfortunately, Ms. Smith-McCrossin refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing and - when explicitly asked by her Caucus - refused to apologize to Nova Scotians,” continued Houston. “I want to make clear to the people of Nova Scotia that I am committed to doing the right thing even if there is a cost. That is my commitment to the people of this province."
Houston said the Smith-McCrossin took the wrong approach.
"The blockade was not appropriate and it distracted from holding the government to account," Houston said.
In a statement posted to her Facebook page Thursday, Smith-McCrossin said she was disappointed in Houston’s decision and will “take some time to reflect with my family, my constituents and my supporters on what I will do next in politics”.
“I will never apologize for doing my job to represent my constituents,” wrote Smith-McCrossin in the post. “As PC leader, Mr. Houston has every right to change his mind after he previously supported me. He told me he wished he hadn’t said what he did in the media in support of me. Again, I respect Mr. Houston’s right to change his mind. But 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 changed his mind.”
According to her profile on the Nova Scotia Legislature website, Smith-McCrossin was first elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly as MLA for Cumberland North in 2017, and served as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, as well as a member of the Law Amendments and Private and Local Bills Committees.
Smith-McCrossin’s profile also says she is also a small business owner and worked as a registered nurse for 27 years.
Dwayne Ripley, who was one of the protesters, said the protest goes beyond Smith-McCrossin.
"This is a people movement," Ripley said. "This has nothing to do with one individual person and if everyone wants to criticize her and throw her to the Wolves, she’s going to take it on the chin."
Meanwhile, on the New Brunswick side of the border, things were running smoothly with respect to traffic after a frustrating day on Wednesday.
"I understand how some things aren’t working the way people wanted them to, but I at least want to be able to get across the border and do my work and come back without having to stop," said said trucker Phillip Anthony.