Published on April 03, 2013
Education Minister Ramona Jennex. FRED A. HATFIELD PHOTO
Published on September 24, 2013
Claims in this letter, signed by an NDP campaign worker, upset Liberal candidate Keith Irving. NDP candidate Ramona Jennex apologized and dismissed Cole from her campaign team.
By Jennifer Hoegg
A day after allegations of a smear campaign shook up the Kings South race, the NDP candidate confirmed she has apologized to her opponent for the behavior of a staffer.
An email from Ramona Jennex campaign worker Nathaniel Cole alleging Liberal candidate Keith Irving is an “outspoken homophobe” was reportedly sent to the Acadia Pride co-ordinator as part of an invitation to meet with Jennex.
Pride is an Acadia Students’ Union organization supporting “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited, and queer … individuals, as well as their family, friends, and allies.”
Irving’s campaign released both Cole’s and the Pride co-ordinator’s email, which repeated the allegation, to the media Sept. 24.
“That this came out of my campaign, especially, is extremely upsetting,” Ramona Jennex said Sept. 25. “It’s something I don’t condone.”
As education minister, Jennex has been involved in efforts to combat bullying and cyberbullying.
“I’m totally, totally upset that anyone from this campaign or any campaign call anyone a name,” she said.
“That there has been a slur… that’s not who I am and it has no reflection on anyone else who is working on that campaign.”
Jennex said she was still looking into how Cole, who is from Saskatchewan, came to work for the campaign and said he was “a friend of the campaign manager.”
Her campaign manager is Craig Ashbourne, who is also not from Nova Scotia. Ashbourne said Wednesday he is from Newfoundland and currently lives in Toronto.
“You have a campaign manager and the campaign manager puts his trust in who is working on the campaign,” she said.
“This is a person I don’t know, who wrote a letter from a private email to contact people at Acadia.”
Jennex found out about Cole’s email from CBC reporter Jean Laroche and she said she took action right away.
“As soon as Jean Laroche left the office the first thing I did was call Keith.”
Cole was dismissed as well.
“This is someone who made a huge error. They’re gone from the office and they’re gone from Nova Scotia,” Jennex said.
“We teach our children that when you make a mistake there is a consequence. He did something inappropriate and he is gone from a campaign immediately.
“We won’t have anyone on this campaign who isn’t respectful.”
At a press conference Tuesday, Irving said he felt Jennex should apologize to the residents of Kings South and to Acadia.
“I can speak for myself and what I can do to make amends,” Jennex said.
“The slur was directed at Mr. Irving and I apologized to Mr. Irving for the very inappropriate comment that was made by someone who was working for me.
“I can only apologize for how badly I feel and how this has impacted (Irving.)”
Who’s working on Kings South campaigns?
Ramona Jennex’s campaign manager Craig Ashbourne said he is now the only non-Nova Scotian working for the candidate. There are four paid workers on the campaign and 70 to 80 volunteers.
“Just like with a number of parties, there are young people who come from out of province to gain experience on campaigns. In the same way that there are young people from Nova Scotia who go to other (jurisdictions,)” Ashbourne said.
Keith Irving’s campaign manager Katherine Trumper said there are no paid employees and no out-of-area volunteers working on the candidate’s team.
Approximately 40 to 50 volunteers are helping the Liberal effort in the riding, she said.
“It’s actually a great way to get experience,” Trumper said of young people travelling to work on campaigns.
Shane Buchan’s campaign manager Barry Costello said there are no paid workers on the candidate’s team and no out-of-area volunteers.
“We have a sign at the front of our door that this campaign team is comprised only of Nova Scotians from Kings South,” he said.
“How prevalent is that with the NDP?”
Costello said there were 10 core volunteers and about 30 to 40 total volunteer helpers with the Buchan campaign.
“We’re not big. We’re facing what other parties are facing. It would be great to have more people on the ground,” he added. “This is fairly typical – it’s always a struggle to get more people.”
Candidate Sheila Richardson, who is also an organizer with the provincial party, said there are five volunteers working on the Kings South campaign.