- Encore: Exclusive: MacPolitics: Stephen McNeil’s Only In First Media Interview About Liberal Disarray & Cover-Up
By Andrew Macdonald
Former Nova Scotia Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil spoke last March for the first time since the troubling outbreak of Liberal infighting, theft of party funds, and explosive allegations of misogynistic treatment by an ex-party staffer.
In a phone call last March in the morning at 7:23 a.m. with The Notebook, McNeil says he remains a Liberal card-carrying member.
Revered by party members from Brier Island to Meat Cove, the former premier says he attended last winter’s Liberal AGM as a registered delegate, tuning in on the Zoom online app.
But he confirms he will not be contributing financially anymore to the Nova Scotia Liberal Party “until they clean up their act.”
In a 15-minute phone call last March (Tuesday) with The Notebook, McNeil explained why he has stopped contributing to the party, although he remains a committed card-carrying member, both provincially and federally.
“I participated in the last general election with Liberal candidates across the province who wanted me to do things for them. I did a number of videos and stopped in different ridings. There is no issue for me. I voted in the annual meeting. I wasn’t at the annual meeting….I participated (online) in voting for my select choice of candidates who I wanted to be on the (party) executive.”
In a previous edition, The Notebook erroneously reported McNeil did not participate in the AGM.
But, McNeil confirmed my Sunday report that he has stopped donating to the provincial party.
“It is accurate that I have not contributed to the party since last March when I was no longer the leader. And, that was really simply because I wanted to see change in the central office,” McNeil says.
He had a fractured relationship with the former party executive director, Mike Mercer.
“I had always had a good relationship with (rank and file) Liberals across the province. That has never been an issue for me, and, it still isn’t. I can go wherever I want to go and have conversations with Liberals,” he added.
“But, I had stopped contributing to the central (party) organization because I wanted to see a different organizational structure…and when I see that, I’ll start contributing again,” he said.
“But, I do contribute to the federal party.”
I asked McNeil what he means when he says the NS Liberal party has to “clean up its act” before he begins donating again to the NS Liberal party.
“They need a different organizational structure. They need to be able to go out and organize in ridings. They need to be able to go out and win ridings, in fact. That is what the party should be doing, in my view,” he added.
As well, the party “should be now looking for candidates, not in two years’ time” in seats not currently held by the Liberals.
I asked McNeil if he is upset by the infighting in the party, the allegations of theft, charges of misogynistic treatment that volunteer Maura Ryan faced, and the fact that Ryan and Sen. Jim Cowan were denied an opportunity to present their Liberal election review report to the weekend AGM
“I made my position very clear on how Maura was treated, and what the party should do to deal with it,” said McNeil. He did not elaborate on that comment.
“I will say this to you, it to me is very strange that the two people who went out and spoke to (300) Liberals across the province did not make the presentation at the annual meeting. “That is just nonsensical. There is no way to describe it, other than being nonsensical.
“To me, that was offensive to all those who contributed to (the report), and all those who supported the process by talking to Jim (Cowan) and Maura (Ryan) about what they felt needed to change,” he said.
I asked McNeil if former Liberal president Joseph Khoury and his outgoing board should have gone to the police over the theft of funds, reportedly more than $145,000, from the party office accounts.
“I made it clear in the letter that I sent to them back in January 2021, that the appropriate authorities (be told). I don’t know any of the details around that, I don’t even know the amount. But, I sent a letter (to the board) back in January 2021 when I heard of the potential — let me be clear, of the potential — theft.
“What I said to them then, and it still holds true, that if there was anything done inappropriately, they (the board) needed to call the appropriate authorities,” said McNeil.
I asked if he meant the police by ‘authorities’.
“Well, I don’t know what happened there. Let’s not confuse this. I don’t know what took place. I don’t know the details of (the theft). The board knows the details of it and they should have communicated it to their members,” he said.
“But, whatever is going on there, I said (contact) the appropriate authorities, whatever they determined that to be, and it could be (calling police). But, I do not know what happened. I don’t know the extent of the allegation of something inappropriate. I don’t even know the number (of the total figure of theft).”
McNeil says authorities “could also (mean) an auditor…. (The board) need to make sure they get the right people in to get to the bottom of it. That is all I was talking about, and when they know what they are doing, get the (authorities) in.”
I asked McNeil if the outgoing board should have communicated with Liberal members in 2021 after investigating the missing money.
“Any board, any board governance would tell you the board needs to be open and transparent with its members. That is just normal board governance,” said McNeil.
The Notebook’s Liberal file last wintr took an ugly turn with someone back then at 12:45 a.m. pretending to be Stephen McNeil, and using a similar Google email address.
Following a email message from McNeil in March sent at at 4:30 p.m., I sent follow-up questions at 5:14 p.m., and had a reply in my email bin at 12:40 a.m last night But the 12:40 a.m. email, while seemingly from McNeil, was a fake email
When I saw the mail address, I noticed a letter in McNeil’s name was in the wrong location. That is alarming to The Notebook and also to McNeil, who said he was asleep at 12:45 a.m. The fake Gmail message included a claim that McNeil had quit the Nova Scotia Liberal party.
“Now, that someone has sent you a (fake) email, I want that to be part of this story because that is not true. I don’t have that email address. Someone is trying to communicate to you that they are me is absolutely false. You know me well, Andrew, I would tell you right upfront. I only have one email address.
The other one you received, was not me. I only have the email address that you sent to me (Monday afternoon), the Gmail account that you sent to me,” he said.