By Jennifer Vardy Little
Keith Irving says accusations that he’s an “outspoken homophobe” are “completely outrageous."
According to emails the Kings South Liberal candidate’s campaign distributed to media Tuesday, someone with Ramona Jennex’s campaign sent an email to the Acadia Pride group alleging Irving is a an “outspoken homophobe.”
In a press release, Irving said “the unfounded allegations against him are hurtful and seem to follow a disturbing pattern by the NDP in this campaign.”
The email, dated Sept. 19, is signed Nathaniel Cole, voter contact organizer, Ramona Jennex Campaign.
Irving says there’s nothing in his background that could lead someone to believe he is homophobic – an accusation he vehemently denies.
“I think this accusation is so outlandish that I don’t feel people of Kings South will take it seriously at all in terms of my integrity. Anyone who knows me or who has met me knows this is no way reflective of who I am. This is so outrageous,” Irving said.
“The quote is saying ‘outspoken’ – how does a politician be outspoken on an issue like this and not be recognized before this, in the midst of an election campaign?”
Irving was campaigning on doorsteps as usual Tuesday morning.
“It was only when I heard the party wanted to shine a light on the NDP’s actions” that he stopped campaigning and headed to his office, he told The Advertiser/Register.
“The party was very concerned that this was part of the NDP trend to launch these kinds of attacks and robocalls and whatever. They encouraged me to hold a press conference and go public with this. But I’m more focused on the doors, frankly.”
Flanked by Liberal Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison – who is openly gay – Irving told reporters at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that this situation was “really unfortunate” and took voters away from the real issues in Kings South.
“There’s a broader issue here – in terms of this kind of dirty, mean spirited politics is what gives politics a bad name,” Brison said. “The Dexter campaign, provincially, continues to take things right out of the playbook of Stephen Harper, whether it is voter suppression with robocalls in some cases to mean and personal attacks of candidates and also the personal attacks against our leader, Stephen McNeil, in the recent months. The Dexter playbook is looking increasingly like the Harper playbook.”
He also expressed outrage about the accusations.
“I hate to see the issue of gay rights be used as a divider of people in this day and age,” Brison said. “There’s been a broad consensus developed across Nova Scotia and Canada, across parties. To have someone accuse someone of being homophobic – in a completely fabricated, personal attack – is beyond the pale.”
Irving said that a supporter sent him an email that had been circulated around the Acadia campus, prompting him to approach the university and student union.
“Acadia was very co-operative and concerned….they’re both very concerned how the university was drawn into this unfortunate incident,” Irving said.
Irving said Jennex had called him to personally apologize. He says that while he accepts the apology, he thinks more should be done – including an apology to the voters of Kings South and to the Acadia students who were “drawn into all of this.”
Irving says he intends to spend some time on campus campaigning.
“I expect that I will, at some point, be on campus to meet with students,” he said, but added that he likely would have done so anyway.
“For me, it’s business as usual now,” Irving said.
Jennex said she only heard of the issue when she arrived back from campaigning Tuesday and found reporters at her office.
"I do not condone this type of behaviour," Jennex said. "This young campaign worker is no longer part of my campaign. People have to be respectful at all times."
Cole, she said, is not from the area and flew in from Saskatchewan because he was interested in helping out.
"(Cole) heard stories within the community and, although I certainly can't speak for him, as a young gay man, his emotions got the better of him," Jennex said. "I'm very, very disappointed. He did this from his own account, he was not speaking for me.”
Check back at www.kingscountynews.ca for an update later this afternoon.