Liberal candidate criticized by Halifax school board after 'photo op'

The newly minted candidate for the Nova Scotia Liberals in the riding of Dartmouth East has ruffled feathers at a local school after a teacher complained she felt "duped" into a photo op used for political purposes.

Edgar Burns was one of several volunteers who participated Wednesday in the Rotary Club's Read a Long program at Brookhouse Elementary, which is in the riding.

He read to the Grade 3 class, answered questions and a photograph of him reading to the children was snapped. Hours later the picture was posted on the Dartmouth East Liberal Association Facebook page.

'Duped into a photo op'

The teacher of the class was not in the photo but posted on social media that she was upset about it, saying she felt "duped into a photo op for the Liberal Party." The photo has been taken down.

The school is also unhappy a photo was used to promote a candidate's campaign, said Doug Hadley, spokesperson for Halifax Regional School Board. 

"We don't want our students to be used for political purposes," he said. "The photo was posted without the school's acknowledgement. And to not acknowledge prior to the event taking place that they indeed were a candidate, I don't think was totally above board."

'Innocent mistake'

In a statement forwarded from the Nova Scotia Liberal Party office, Burns said it was "an innocent mistake on my part" and that he takes responsibility for it.

"I also reached out directly to the teacher involved and offered my apologies," said Burns, who was participating in the Read a Long program for the second year in a row.

The co-ordinator of the Rotary Club's Read a Long program, Greg Hayward, said Burns wasn't the only politician who participated in the event. Hayward said he failed to pick up on the fact that Burns had just been nominated as a candidate.

Politicians will continue to be invited as volunteer readers, Hayward said, but politics should be left out of it. He added that photos of students aren't allowed.

The sitting MLA who's running for re-election, independent Andrew Younger, also read to students. He posted a photo of himself reading to students on Facebook. The photo shows the backs of students' heads.