POLITICS
09/10/2014 12:55 EDT | Updated 11/10/2014 05:59 EST

Ex-Nova Scotia cabinet minister declines comment on assertion she was to resign

HALIFAX - A former Nova Scotia cabinet minister refused comment Wednesday on a colleague's book that says she had planned to resign over a contract negotiated with health care workers in April 2012.

In his recently released book "What I Learned About Politics: Inside the Rise — and Collapse — of Nova Scotia's NDP Government," former finance minister Graham Steele says he resigned because he felt the deal was too costly.

In the book, Steele says Maureen MacDonald, who served as health minister at the time, was prepared to join him.

He says he talked with MacDonald about holding a joint news conference announcing their resignations, but MacDonald later backed away from the idea.

"Her reasons for staying are for her to share, not me, but they did affect my own decision about how to resign," Steele says in the book.

Steele resigned as finance minister in May 2012 but didn't publicly air his grievances with then-premier Darrell Dexter over the settlement with health care workers. MacDonald subsequently took over Steele's portfolio of finance.

MacDonald, who is now the NDP's interim leader, said while she read the book she won't be commenting on any aspect of it. Reporters repeatedly asked her whether she wanted to reject anything Steele said, but she took a pass.

"Mr. Steele wrote his story and it's his right to tell his story," said MacDonald. "I have no comment on what he learned or the story that he wants to tell."

Last week, current Liberal Finance Minister Diana Whalen said the previous government's contract with the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union that gave workers a 7.5 per cent wage increase over three years was too expensive.

The government is saddled with a $678.9-million deficit and Whalen said wage settlements will be an important part of how the government proceeds fiscally in the future.