Axed cabinet minister surprised he was fired, disappointed by premier’s decision – CP
Source: The Canadian Press
Nov 6, 2015
By Ben Cousins
THE CANADIAN PRESS
HALIFAX _ A former Nova Scotia cabinet minister says he unintentionally misstated when he was made aware of a parliamentary privilege that he contends prevented him from appearing in court for the trial of a woman accused of assaulting him.
Andrew Younger’s failure to appear at the trial led a provincial court judge in Halifax to drop the charge in the case earlier this week.
Premier Stephen McNeil announced Thursday night that Younger was relieved of his cabinet duties and was also kicked out of the Liberal caucus.
“Given that I have followed the direction of the premier’s office throughout on this matter, I am disappointed and surprised by the premier’s decision,” Younger said in a statement.
McNeil said Younger did not provide accurate information on when he knew about the parliamentary privilege that affected the course of the trial.
Younger told a news conference earlier on Thursday that his lawyer informed him on Monday of the parliamentary privilege that allows members of the legislature to decline appearing in court when the house is in session.
Younger says he was, in fact, informed of the privilege three days earlier on Oct. 30 and was ready to correct his misstatement with the media.
“That error was mine and unintentional,” he says in the statement.
“When I was made aware of the possible error, I checked my records and confirmed the date with the premier’s office.”
McNeil said media outlets provided his staff with court documents that didn’t match what Younger was saying. He said at that point he decided to drop his colleague from cabinet.
Younger also says the statement he read at the news conference on Thursday was written by the premier’s office after he was told not to speak to the media a day earlier when the charge was dropped in court.
“My wife and I will have more to say on this matter, and the timeline leading to today, in the near future,” writes Younger, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
He spent almost 50 minutes Thursday answering reporters’ questions about his failure to appear in provincial court Wednesday for the matter involving Tara Gault, 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. Younger said he simply followed the law that says sitting members of the legislature cannot be called to testify in civil and criminal matters without being asked to waive the exemption, and he was not asked by the Crown to waive it.
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.
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