POLITICS

Andrew Younger, Nova Scotia MLA, Removed From Liberal Caucus

11/05/2015 08:26 EST | Updated 11/05/2015 10:59 EST
CP

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's environment minister was shown the door on Thursday amid revelations that he didn't show up to testify at a trial for a woman who was accused of assaulting him.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced in a late night news conference that Andrew Younger was relieved of his cabinet duties and was also kicked out of the governing Liberal caucus.

McNeil says Younger did not provide accurate information surrounding his decision to not testify.

The cabinet minister had said he didn't attend because of a law that states sitting members of the legislature cannot be called to testify in civil and criminal matters without being asked to waive the exemption.

"There's a level of trust, if your employer was asking questions, they would expect you to give forthright (answers),'' McNeil told the hastily called Thursday evening news conference.

"Unfortunately that wasn't the case."

McNeil said he didn't personally speak to Younger about his dismissal, saying the news came from staff.

"It was staff who spoke to him, it was a short conversation," McNeil said.

Younger spent almost 50 minutes earlier in the day answering reporters' questions about his failure to appear in provincial court Wednesday for the matter involving Tara Gault, who is a former Liberal staff member.

He insisted he was not trying to avoid testifying in the case, which the judge dismissed after denying the prosecution's request for an adjournment to address the issue of the exemption.

"It's just not factual to suggest that I was using some provision as a way to get out of this,'' he said on Thursday morning.

Younger said he was notified of the privilege by his lawyer on Monday. The following day, he said the prosecution indicated they would seek an adjournment and that his wife and lawyer should be in court.

McNeil said media outlets provided his staff with court documents with information that didn't match what Younger was saying. He said at that point he decided to drop his long-time colleague from cabinet.

"When somebody close to me provides me with information that is not accurate, it is not a great feeling,'' he said.

Gault pleaded not guilty to the charge stemming from an alleged assault on or about Oct. 22, 2013, the day the Liberal government assumed power after the last provincial election.

Younger has refused to discuss the nature of his relationship with Gault, saying only that he had a personal relationship with her that has ended and that he and his wife have moved on.

He would also not reveal anything about the alleged event that resulted in the assault charge.

Conservative Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie said McNeil should have acted sooner.

"He was forced into it tonight. It should have happened long before now," he said.

Maureen MacDonald, the NDP leader, said she was concerned that fresh information had to come from the media before McNeil acted.

"This case that happened yesterday has been going on for a very long without the premier having investigated and seeming to have an interest in what's going on," she said.

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