NS finance minister apologizes for comments directed toward NDP MLA

Progressive Conservative Finance Minister Allan MacMaster accused NDP MLA Kendra Coombes of being overly dramatic…

Progressive Conservative Finance Minister Allan MacMaster accused NDP MLA Kendra Coombes of being overly dramatic in the way she questioned him during Thursday’s Question Period at Province House.

His comments sparked an immediate call for an apology from her NDP colleagues. They considered his response an attempt to belittle the representative for Cape Breton Center-Whitney Pier.

Coombes, home recovering from surgery following the birth of her second child earlier this month, posed her question by video link.

“When will this government stop using their power to reward the premier’s personal friends and start helping everyday people who are struggling to put gas in their cars, so they can put food on their tables?” Coombes asked.

“Mr. Speaker, the drama that’s dripping from that voice,” responded MacMaster.

Kendra Coombes is the MLA for Cape Breton Center-Whitney Pier. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

That comment drew an immediate objection from the NDP’s Lisa Lachance.

“I don’t think it’s at all appropriate to characterize the nature or voice of, or emotion of, a member,” said the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.

Speaker Keith Bain ruled the matter should be dealt with the following Question Period.

‘Many other words like this’

NDP House Leader Susan Leblanc later stood in the House to officially complain. She said “this comment was wholly inappropriate and offensive.”

“When a person, woman member, uses her voice to bring a question forward on behalf of her constituents, she should have the right to being heard without having her voice characterized in any way,” said Leblanc.”Dramatic, hysterical, there’s many other words like this, Mr. Speaker, and they have a long history of excluding women from conversations.

“The minister’s behavior is tantamount to dismissing the member’s words or her voice as not worthy to be answered. It is silencing. It is offensive!”

MacMaster responded: “I will apologize to the member.

“Why, Mr. Speaker? Because it was not a respectful comment, no matter who it was made to, no matter who it was made by,” said the MLA for Inverness. “That’s the way I look at the world, Mr Speaker.”

Outside of the House

NDP Leader Claudia Chender, speaking outside the House, characterized MacMaster’s response as an apology of sorts.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry,'” Chender said. “And then he qualified it by saying, ‘but that’s not how I see the world.’ And I disagree with the reasoning put forward. I mean, in any of our families or partnerships, would that apology fly? Probably not in my marriage.”

Outside the House Thursday, NDP Leader Claudia Chender said she disagreed with the reasoning Finance Minister Allan MacMaster put forward for his comments. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Speaking to CBC News after the House adjourned for the day, MacMaster offered another apology.

“Honestly, I don’t usually make comments like that, and it’s hot in there and I think I just said something I shouldn’t have and I apologize for it.”

MacMaster said he understood why Leblanc felt so strongly about his comment.

“Certainly I did, that’s why I apologized,” said MacMaster. “And it’s why, I also … talked about the member’s … sincerity in representing her constituents and that there’s a lot of people who are suffering out there now with the cost of living.

“It’s not something that I would want anybody to feel was not an important matter.”