Nova Scotia Tory member dropped from caucus by leader for supporting border shutdown

·4 min read

HALIFAX — A prominent member of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative party has been dropped from the caucus after she posted an angry video on Facebook supporting a protest that closed the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Party Leader Tim Houston issued a statement Thursday saying Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the member of the legislature for Cumberland North, will also not be permitted to run for the party in the future.

Houston said he appreciated his colleague's frustration over last-minute changes by the Liberals that require New Brunswickers to show proof of full vaccination and take a COVID-19 test to avoid self-isolation requirements.

But he also said Smith-McCrossin's failure to accept accountability for her post showed a lack of judgment and personal responsibility.

"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," Huston said. "Unfortunately, Ms. Smith-McCrossin refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing and, when explicitly asked by her caucus, refused to apologize to Nova Scotians.

The protest at the border began Tuesday afternoon over objections to the travel restrictions, and ended on Wednesday evening when three participants were arrested.

Smith-McCrossin posted a video to Facebook late Tuesday afternoon telling the public that unless the Liberals changed the policy, she would join with residents of her county who had "had enough" and were "shutting down the TransCanada Highway."

In her video, Smith-McCrossin described the testing and self-isolation rules announced by Liberal Premier Iain Rankin as a huge disappointment to people living in Cumberland County.

Rankin announced the measures after New Brunswick lifted self-isolation requirements for people traveling to the province from the rest of Canada, provided they had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Smith-McCrossin recorded a video where she said, "We've had enough. I'm calling on Premier Rankin to change your mind. You have until 4 p.m. today (Tuesday) and if you don't the Trans-Canada will be shut down...by the people here of our area."

"It's going to hurt you, because you hurt us here in our border town, in our county, long enough. There's no need for it. This is pure, pure politics," she said.

She later went to Halifax and sat outside the office building where the premier's office is located, demanding a meeting on behalf of her constituents.

Houston said he met with his caucus and received unanimous agreement to expel the member of the legislature after Smith-McCrossin declined to publicly apologize.

In a Facebook posting on Thursday, Smith-McCrossin said she would "never apologize" for representing her constituents.

"I am sad that I am unable to continue to serve with the party I support and believe in," she wrote, saying she continues to believe in the principles of the Progressive Conservative party.

"I will need to take some time to reflect with my family, my constituents and my supporters on what I will do next in politics."

The blockade began late Tuesday on the Trans Canada Highway near the Cobequid Pass, and was later moved to the border area with New Brunswick outside of Amherst, N.S.

It disrupted commerce and led to the cancellation of more than 100 medical appointments at an Amherst hospital before RCMP officers moved in and peacefully broke it up, arresting three people around 9 p.m. Wednesday night.

Rankin said Thursday that Smith-McCrossin had fallen below the standard expected for elected provincial politicians.

"It's unconceivable that a member of the legislature would orchestrate so much disruption at the border," he said, adding he would have taken the same measure against one of his own members of the legislature if they behaved in a similar way.

Smith-McCrossin entered Nova Scotia’s last Progressive Conservative leadership race, losing to Houston in the 2018 vote.

The 48-year-old is a registered nurse who operated a health care business prior to being elected to the legislature for the first time in May 2017.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2021.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Smith-McCrossin was the only woman to run in the 2018 Progressive Conservative leadership race, but in fact Julie Chaisson also ran.

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