KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As reported by the CBC on February 12th the Dave Wilson NDP leadership campaign was recently fined $100 after it became apparent that a campaign worker had inappropriately accessed the party’s membership list.
The worker emailed a new NDP member on behalf of the Wilson campaign minutes after she joined the party, rather than wait for the formal release of that information to all three leadership contestants.
What makes the issue particularly contentious is that the worker in question is a NDP caucus staffer who was volunteering on Wilson’s behalf.
Wilson, who told the CBC he was unaware of the breach until a complaint was filed, quickly removed the volunteer from his campaign team.
An exchange of letters acquired by The Nova Scotia Advocate indicate that was not the end of the affair.
A letter dated February 18th, addressed to NDP interim leader Maureen MacDonald, and signed by a dozen party members calls the incident “ a very serious breach of the membership’s trust as it pollutes the democratic process of our leadership election.”
The letter then goes on to demand that the worker in question resign or be fired.
To back up this demand the letter refers to discussions last fall when the Leadership Rules Committee decided that it would be ok for caucus staffers to participate as volunteers in leadership campaigns.
“Concerns were raised at the time about the privileged access to information a caucus staff member would have – concerns which you brushed off as unfounded,” the letter states.
The letter also suggests that the perceived reluctance to take action will prove damaging to the party in the long run.
“How can we have any moral authority to condemn the Office of the Premier for re-hiring Kirby McVicar after his privacy breach, when we have proven to the public that we are willing to tolerate similar behaviour from our own caucus staff?,” the letter asks.
A terse response written the very same day by lawyer Raymond Larkin on behalf of MacDonald informs the recipients that their letter is defamatory both of the staffer as well as the interim party leader.
The staffer is a civil servant, and as such entitled to due process, Larkin writes.
“Ms. MacDonald, as leader is responsible for these employees and must treat them fairly and respectfully. No employee in the public service can be dismissed because a group of individuals complain about them and demand that they be dismissed summarily without any fair process,” Larkin writes.
“You should apologize for this defamation. You must desist from repeating the defamation in any of your communications,” Larkin concludes.
Questions submitted to the Nova Scotia NDP about the precise nature and scope of the breach remain unanswered.
We asked whether the party conducted a broader investigation to determine if the breach in question was just an isolated incident. We also asked if the party made sure that no other rules were broken.
“A complaint was received. It was investigated. It was found to have merit. A penalty was imposed and posted on the party website as required,” was the one-sentence response by Mike Poworoznyk, the NDP’s Provincial Secretary and Chief Administrative Officer.