MLAs put off a decision to fund a $4.5 million increase in constituency office staff during a chippy management commission Wednesday.
The $4.5 million would allow for MLAs to add a second constituency assistant position. The money would also be used toward training and safety equipment.
The passionate discussion followed an incident in early December at MLA Brendan Maguire’s office. The incident involved Maguire’s assistant being choked and pinned to a wall. A student working in the office stepped in to help.
NDP and Liberal members voiced their support for funding of an additional constituency assistant in their offices. NDP MLA Susan Leblanc stressed the importance of supporting one’s staff as well as ensuring their safety. Leblanc said MLAs “need to make sure our staff is as safe as any other public employee.”
NDP MLA Derek Mombourquette said the incident at Maguire’s office was “a wakeup call.”
Progressive Conservative party members were hesitant to fund another constituency assistant in offices.
PC MLA Allan MacMaster said he wants “some professional advice on security” before coming to a decision. Some of the measures presented by MLAs were de-escalation training and installing safety equipment, such as doorbell cameras and panic buttons.
MacMaster said he preferred to ensure some of these measures were considered before spending $4.5 million.
PC MLA Danielle Barkhouse told her colleagues office safety is “about prioritizing your budget.” Barkhouse was then interrupted by Leblanc, who muttered “don’t talk to me about budgets.”
Barkhouse said it was important to use taxpayers’ dollars efficiently. Leblanc said she disliked the “rhetoric” the PC party was using, adding, “I find it abhorrent actually.”
She pointed out taxpayers are the ones working these positions. She said she felt the discussion of safety should not be accompanied by the discussion of money.
“I wonder what it will take for the government to understand that two people is better than one person,” said Leblanc.
At end of the meeting, MLAs tabled the motion and agreed to discuss office safety at a future meeting, within two weeks.
About the author
Megan is a bachelor of journalism student from Enfield, Nova Scotia.