MLA Eyking, in office 64 days, takes 28-day vacay – updated

[See Update in second to last paragraph.]

Just 64 days after taking her seat in the Nova Scotia Legislature, newly elected Liberal MLA Pam Eyking left Canada for a 28-day family trip to Australia and Taiwan.

Eyking and her husband Mark, MP for Sydney-Victoria, left Canada on Boxing Day. Her office said she is expected back in Nova Scotia Thursday, the 23rd. Contrarian learned about the trip from a prominent Cape Breton Liberal who asked not to be identified, but said party members are annoyed at her taking a long foreign vacation so early in her term as MLA. Elected October 8, Eyking was sworn in as MLA October 22.

Longtime Liberal MLA Manning MacDonald resigned his seat last May after his decision to take a month-long Florida vacation while the house was sitting came under fire. The house has not been in session during Eyking’s absence.

Eykings and McNeilLaurel Munroe, communications advisor to Premier Stephen McNeil, said the Eykings spent two weeks in Australia visiting “their son, who lives there,” then continued on to Taiwan where Mark Eyking is on “a Parliamentary trip.” She said did not have details on any Parliamentary business he was conducting, but said such trips are common for MPs.

Asked if McNeil had approved Eyking’s trip in advance, Munroe said, “she made him aware of it before leaving, but MLAs don’t require approval unless house is in session.”

Munroe said the premier, “told her to make sure her constituency office is ready to handle any constituent inquiries that come up while she is away.”

A staff member in Mark Eyking’s Ottawa office who did not know the nature of the MP’s business in Taiwan offered to have a staff member who did return Contrarian’s call, but the other staffer did not call back.

Facebook pages of Eykings’ two sons list both men as Ottawa residents, but photos show one of them at an Australian surf camp in late October.

In an email to Contrarian, Pam Eyking said she was, “currently in Taiwan doing business trade for the riding and area. Over the next several days I have meetings lined up for CBU, Cape Breton fishers, and the Cape Breton tourist association.”

She did not respond to questions in a follow-up email seeking details about the meetings and comment on the propriety of leaving the country for an extended trip so soon after her election. She did offer to meet after she returns to Cape Breton.

Cape Breton University President David Wheeler did not respond to emails seeking details on any meetings Eyking is attending for the university in Taiwan. confirmed Monday that university officials “did speak to Ms. Eyking about making links for CBU in Taiwan before her departure.” The Cape Breton Tourist Association ceased to exist in 2007. The island’s tourism industry has been represented since 2003 by Destination Cape Breton.

[Disclosure: I have been friendly with the Eykings for many years, but I have also been vocal in criticizing Pam Eyking’s decision to run for the provincial legislature.]

Parker Donham, election outlaw


You may have heard Elections Nova Scotia’s allegation that I violated the province’s election act Saturday. I don’t believe I did,  but however the controversy turns out, you may want to know how I got myself in this putative pickle.

On Saturday, I drove to Halifax, where I will do election night commentary for CTV. I had misread the yellow election card that came in the mail, and mistakenly thought I could vote Saturday at any returning office. Turns out that option expired last Thursday.

At the Blues Mills polling station, the helpful returning officer informed me the only two places I could vote that day were the advance poll at Geroge’s River and the returning office in Alder Point. The closer of the two, George’s River, was 104 kms back in the direction from whence I had come. This would add 2-1/2 hours to what should have been a 3-hour drive to Halifax. I considered skipping the vote altogether, but as it happens, I have an unusually keen interest in the outcome of the election in Victoria-The Lakes.

Keith_BainI have known MLA Keith Bain for 40 years. I believe he preceded me as president of the Boularderie Home and School Assoc. For many years, he was Chief of the Big Bras d’Or Fire Dept. in which capacity he helped my neighbours set up the Ross Ferry Volunteer Fire Dept. He served several terms on the Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board. He was the storekeeper in a one-store village, its own form of community service.

I cannot recall an important community meeting in the last 40 years at which Keith was not present and making a positive contribution. Never unpleasantly partisan, always trying to make things better for his community. Last year, he and Liberal Kelly Regan were the MLAs who most consistently kept the heat on Denise Peterson-Rafuse over Talbot House. In short, a decent man with an impeccable record of community service.

Running against him is Pam Eyking,* who has no comparable record of community service and whom I have never seen at a public meeting. Absent that fact she is married to Liberal MP Mark Eyking, there is no possibility she would be the nominee. I like Mark, and I have voted for him more than once, but I find Pam’s decision to run for the Liberals opportunistic and unbecoming.

Mark.PamA Liberal landslide could possibly sweep Pam into office. That’s the thing about landslides. They take out a lot of good people, along with the unpopular government that is their target.

As I sped through Iron Mines, Iona, Christmas Island, and Beaver Cove, I was annoyed at myself for not voting earlier, and annoyed at Pam for getting me riled up enough to drive 100 km out of my way.

“Why am I going to all this trouble,” I asked myself. “Because I want to be able to tell people I voted for Keith.”

As I approached George’s River, that idea morphed into a plan to show people I voted for Keith—by taking a snapshot of my ballot, and sharing it on social media.

I gave no thought to violating the NS Election Act, let alone testing it. My only thought was to come up with an effective way to make a political statement to my fellow electors in Victoria-The Lakes.

Elections Nova Scotia’s response is quite possibly wrong in law, and to my ear, disproportionate in tone. I would have thought the agency had more important matters to tend to three days before an election.


* New Democrat John Frank Toney will poll well in Eskasoni and Wagmatcook, but he has no realistic chance of winning the seat. Nor does Stemmer MacLeod.


Dexter at Holy Angels

Premier Darrell Dexter shot a few baskets Monday afternoon during a courtesy call at the former Holy Angels High School, which New Dawn Enterprises is turning into a center for cultural organizations and entrepreneurship. Pictured in the doorway is Blair Oake, recently retired manager of City Printers, who will manage the facility. Seated in the stands, wearing a blue shirt,  is New Dawn president (and defeated mayoral candidate) Rankin MacSween.

Dexter squeezed in a series of meet-and-greets en route to the NDP’s Cape Breton-The Lakes nominating convention in Eskasoni, where Mi’kmaq John Frank Toney was acclaimed. Toney’s nomination, tacitly endorsed by Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny, is good news for Conservative MLA Keith Bain, who faces a tough fight in a greatly expanded riding against Liberal Pam Eyking, wife of Mark Eyking, MP for Cape Breton-The Sydneys. Toney’s entry into the race essentially takes the large Mi’kmaq community, where Bain is not well known, out of play as far as the front runners are concerned. Racking up a large margin in Eskasoni had been a key element in the Liberal strategy.

Since polls show the Liberals to be the main threat to the Dexter government’s re-election, NDP strategists may be content to help the popular Conservative retain a riding they have no realistic hope of winning.

[Photo: Mike Targett]