If I were to start to discuss politicians and expense scandals your mind would likely turn to events in Ottawa; however, here in Nova Scotia, we have been there, done that and so have that T-Shirt. The popular topic earlier this week was whether or not the legislature was going to be recalled in order to expel a sitting MLA. In the end that did not happen, but if it had, it would not have been the first time in Nova Scotia.
Twenty-six years ago in 1986, An Act Respecting Reasonable Limits for Membership in the House of Assembly, SNS 1986, c 104 amending House of Assembly Act, RSNS 1967, c 128 was passed after the legislature was recalled in October in order to pass this one act.
This act is interesting from a number of perspectives. Firstly, s 2 of the act expelled the member from the house:
Expulsion of member
2. The House of Assembly, in the exercise of its historic right to expel a member in appropriate circumstances, hereby expels from the Assembly the member last elected before the coming into force of this Act for the electoral district of Inverness South by reason of his conviction on four counts of using forged documents in respect of money received by him in his capacity as a member, and the seat of that member is and is deemed to be vacant until an election is held in that electoral district according to law.
Section 1 of the same act from 1986 inserted into the House of Assembly Act, (sections that survived the 1989 revision and still exist as ss 22 & 23 of the House of Assembly Act, RSNS 1989 (1992 Supp) c 1) specify that a person convicted of an indictable offence punishable for a maximum of more than five years is not eligible to be nominated or elected as a member of the House.
However, in 1986 and 1987 this was not the end of the story as 76 NSR (2d) 296 ensued where the expelled member challenged the legitmacy of the act. While he was not successful at having his expulsion overturned the section of the 1986 that specified a person could not be nominated and was retroactively invoked was overturned, Glube. J stated “Surely the citizens of this province should be given credit for having the sense to determine who is a proper member. The voters now know the facts about Mr. MacLean and should he chose to run, it should be the voters who decide whether he is the person they want to represent them in the House. The legislation is paternalistic and excessive and under the proportionality test is unnecessary to protect society.” For a more fulsome, and interesting, summary of this case please read volume 10, no 1 of the Canadian Parliamentary Review by John Holtby. This case was also cited in 2012 in another case regarding the Nova Scotia expenses scandal 2012 NSSC 291.
Of course, this was not the first time in Parliamentary history that this type of expulsion had occurred, in 1764 John Wilkes was expelled from the British Parliament and in a remarkable parallel to the 1986 situation in Nova Scotia, Wilkes could lay claim to originating the modern political comeback.