Here’s the first of the Off Script ‘prepisodes’ – short anecdotes and stories that kept us laughing, captivated, and in suspense during the interviews, meant to keep you doing the same until we launch full episodes in the coming weeks. This week’s story comes from former MLA and deputy speaker, Francene Cosman, where she describes her most harrowing day in the speaker’s chair.
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“Three cheers for the lady!”
Francene Cosman: I’m the deputy speaker of this house, this chamber is my responsibility. I just sat at my desk, staring at a group full of chanting, roaring angry people.
That’s when I got removed from the chamber out the back door, because they said, “You’re not safe…”
Mark Coffin: You’re listening to On the Record, Off Script, a podcast documentary project based on conversations we’ve had with former Nova Scotia MLAs. My name’s Mark Coffin, and I’m one of the hosts of the podcast.
Each week we dig into one small piece of politics, from the perspective of people who served in the Nova Scotia legislature.
What makes these conversations worth listening in on has less to do with what we talked about, and more to do with when we talked about it.
These conversations happened at a point in time when, for the most part, our interview subjects had no plans on running in another election and had fewer reasons to filter or sugar coat what they might tell us.
Right now, it’s October of 2016, and we’re still busy writing and producing the first set of episodes, which we’ll begin releasing within the next month.
Now while we’re preparing for the official launch of the podcast, we wanted to share some of the stories that fascinated and entertained us the most.
This week’s story comes from Francene Cosman.
Francene Cosman: I’m Francene Cosman and the position I held in the legislature initially was as a backbencher, and then I was appointed whip, well I was whip in the first term with John Savage and then I was appointed deputy speaker under the Savage government.
Mark Coffin: Before entering provincial politics , Francene Cosman had a wide-ranging career. She was a nurse. In 1979 she became the first mayor of the town of Bedford. She served as the executive director of the Liberal Party in the 80s, right before becoming its candidate in the riding of Bedford-Fall River and then becoming the MLA.
Since leaving politics, Francene has returned to the role of healer. She became a healing touch, and reiki practitioner, and volunteers much of her time working with the terminally ill.
Francene was sitting in the Speaker’s chair on budget day in 1993, shortly after a supreme court decision came down that made life harder for labour organizers and unionized workers in the province.
As she tells us, during her time in the chair court decisions weren’t the only thing that were coming down…
Francene Cosman: We had pretty well a shutdown and a riot on budget day in the legislature. And punches were thrown at the Premier and we had the place crawling with police to get us all out safely. We didn’t deliver the budget that day because the union took the house over. I was deputy speaker at the time, but I stayed in the legislative Chamber with all the seats up top filled with union members who were very aggressive and yelling and chanting and stamping their feet.
I thought the old house was going to fall down because they were there stamping their feet. I could picture those old plaster ceilings coming down!
They did encourage me to get the hell out of there, but I didn’t. I thought if I sat there calmly, it would calm them down.
At one time one of my constituents who was loaded beyond belief up in the gallery said, “Three cheers for the lady!” I thought, “Oh God.”
My mental attitude was, “I’m the Deputy Speaker of this House, this chamber is my responsibility.” I just sat at my desk, staring at a group full of chanting, roaring angry people.
I stayed in the chamber until a very drunk union member leaped over the railings, landed on the floor of the house, walked over to Dr. Savage’s desk and started breaking on it, smashing it. That’s when the police ran in and all hell broke loose.
Francene Cosman: It was sort of an adventurous day in my life as a politician. That’s when I got removed from the chamber out the back door because they said, “You’re not safe, you can’t stay in here.” Everybody else was outside, waiting to see what was gonna happen. It would have made a good cartoon.
Mark Coffin: And that’s this week’s story. Make sure to subscribe to the Off Script podcast, and stay tuned in the coming weeks for more stories like this one, and for full episodes starting in less than a month.
Off Script is produced by Springtide.
Springtide is a registered charity working to make democracy better in Nova Scotia through education, research and public engagement.
The podcast is produced with the support of Democracy 250, which got us started, and to keep it going we need support from listeners like you.
If you like what you’re hearing, visit OffScript.ca to make a contribution. We’ll make sure to thank you in our next podcast.