HALIFAX: The MLA for Cape Breton-Richmond, who was removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus in June, has now been locked out of her constituency office in St. Peter’s.
The building’s owner, Jeff Stanley, changed the locks on September 15 after Alana Paon failed to pay rent for the past three months.
Constituency office rent is usually paid by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, Speaker of the House Kevin Murphy told The Reporter. However, Paon’s rent hasn’t been being paid by the province since July due to her non-compliance with an accessibility request.
“MLA’s are given an allowance to operate a constituency office, each MLA is entrusted to operate their constituency offices within the rules and policies that are set out by the management commission,” Murphy said. “In this case, 50 other MLA’s are able to do that, and for reasons I suppose only known to Ms. Paon, she’s not following the rules that were set out and the clear direction that was set out by the management commission.”
Murphy indicated Paon’s rent of $1,500 per month, which includes leasehold improvement charges that are paid on a quarterly-basis, is one of the most expensive rents of all MLAs.
Last Thursday, Paon, who is now an Independent MLA, unexpectedly attended the House of Assembly Management Commission (HAMC) meeting.
“The meetings are open to the public and Alana showed up shortly after the meeting started and sat quietly in the gallery, she’s not a member of the management commission,” Murphy said of the group that oversees operations at Province House. “Although the topic of her constituency office situation wasn’t formally on the agenda, it was a matter of topic under old business under the previous minutes.”
As a result, there was a question asked by Government House Leader, Geoff MacLellan to provide an update, which Murphy did; there was no update.
“We have not heard from Ms. Paon since receiving the notification towards the end of June that her July rent would not be paid until she comes into compliance with the request of the management commission,” he said. “After the meeting was adjourned, Ms. Paon came up and dropped a letter on my desk and promptly left the meeting without saying a word.”
Murphy said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss the letter as it was addressed to him personally as the speaker and out of respect to the MLA since it was given to him after the meeting was adjourned, it won’t become part of the public record until their next meeting.
After receiving the letter, Murphy gathered relevant staff from the Speaker’s Office to review the letter, determine their next steps and what can be recommended to the management commission.
“It’s unusual, in my time as speaker, which is six-years; I’m the longest currently-serving speaker in Canada and I’ve never had this kind of experience with any other MLA,” Murphy noted. “The Speaker’s Office is usually held in really high regard, the requests of the speaker are abided by, this is unusually charted territory for us, it’s concerning to say the least.”
Murphy explained he only became aware about Paon’s eviction and the fact her landlord was still owed rent money when CBC News informed him.
“We were not notified by Ms. Paon, we know when we stopped paying the rent on her office, but in the three months that have passed since we issued that directive, we have not been contacted by her or the landlord,” he said. “This all unfolded mid-afternoon on Thursday, this is really uncharted territory for us, we’ll say in modern history of the legislature, and of course its 200-years-old.”
Murphy said they are now trying to figure out, very carefully, what their next steps are and where they go from here.
“Each MLA is given an allowance and as long as they fall within the rules, and policies and guidelines set out for every single MLA, we stay out of the MLA’s business,” he said. “And it’s the policy of the speaker to take the MLA on their word, when they tell us something it’s one of the basic principles that we take at face-value.”
After Paon cancelled a scheduled interview last Saturday, and after repeated attempts to contact her again this week, The Reporter was still unable to reach the MLA by press time.