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.]

Introducing the new Cecil Clarke – it’s Gerald Sampson!

Here’s a bit of inside baseball, of interest only to hard core Cape Breton political junkies and residents of Cape Breton North and Victoria – The Lakes.

sampson-150aWhen the federal election got underway last month, local tongues wagged and eyebrows fluttered at news that twice-defeated one-term Liberal MLA Gerald Sampson was campaigning for Harper Guy Cecil Clarke. Sampson has not exactly been a hot political property since he publicly condemned Victoria County voters as “liars” following his first defeat in 2006. Nevertheless, this was a prominent lifelong Liberal working for a CPC candidate.

clarke150Aye, but here’s the rub: Cecil’s campaign workers are abuzz with disquiet over informed speculation that Sampson will seek the Conservative nomination for the Cape Breton North provincial seat Cecil was required by law to vacate when he filed his candidacy for the federal election in Sydney-Victoria.

Sampson has a knack for winning nominations, matched only by his recent penchant for losing elections. Improbable as victory in the as yet unscheduled byelection might seem, three more years’ service in the legislature would qualify him for a key personal goal: the lucrative MLA’s pension. Somehow this worthy charitable cause has failed to inspire Sampson’s newfound bedfellows in the Conservative campaign.

North Sydney physiotherapist Eddy Orel will also contest the Tory nomination, and common sense dictates he’s the likelier and more sensible choice. But Sampson has surprised party insiders before.