Official agent for Liberal riding association in Preston broke N.S. election law

Angela Simmonds on Oct. 2021 after being chosen deputy speaker at the Nova Scotia Legislature. (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)
Angela Simmonds on Oct. 2021 after being chosen deputy speaker at the Nova Scotia Legislature. (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)

The official agent for the Liberal riding association in Preston has admitted to contravening the Nova Scotia Elections Act by lending former leadership hopeful Angela Simmonds $12,000 to kick start her campaign for the party's top job.

Simmonds, the Liberal MLA for Preston, called it an honest mistake by someone new to the job.

Kerry Foss has signed a "notice of compliance agreement" with Elections Nova Scotia admitting she broke the law when she used $12,000 from the Liberal Riding Association account to help Simmonds pay the $25,000 entry fee to join the race.

Under the agreement signed Nov. 7, Foss accepted responsibility for her actions and promised the money would be repaid, with interest, by Jan. 14.

Simmonds told CBC News the problem stemmed from the fact "everyone was new" at the riding association and they all believed they could use the money to help fund her campaign.

According to the Nova Scotia Elections Act, electoral district associations can only lend money to the party or the candidate nominated by the party to run in the riding. That applies only to elections, not internal party campaigns.

Simmonds said the problem would not have occurred if the party waived entry fees to enter the race.

"Ideally, we wouldn't have entry fees and this wouldn't happen," Simmonds said Monday. "You know, as soon as we knew about this, we immediately rectified it and tried to pivot and make sure that we covered all the bases.

"I hope that this can be a lesson learned, a learned lesson for myself and for the leadership in the next campaign."

It is routine for political parties to set an entry fees for leadership races. The fees raise money for the party and dissuade people who want to run just for fun, as part of protest or lobbying campaign, or to create political mischief.

Simmonds said paying back the loan means her run for the leader's job will end up in the red. She said she has, and will continue, to seek donations to make up for the loss.

"It will end up coming down to me, unless of course there's donors who have donated to this leadership campaign and continue to donate. Other than that, it will be myself," said Simmonds.

Zach Churchill easily won the two-person leadership contest last July, garnering 65 per cent of the vote.