How I got kicked out of Province House
Nelson MacDonald: He wasn’t even saying anything, it wasn’t about anything that was happening outside. It became very clear to me, that nothing that was happening in this very very nice room – with good acoustics – had anything to do with what was really happening outside. There was no discussion happening here, there was no problem solving being done here, there was no fixing things being done here…
Like I said, the guy that just got thrown out I was kinda like ‘that was kinda dumb.’ and then all of a sudden I’m up. I didn’t say Mr. Speaker, so that was a mistake…
Mark Coffin: You’re listening to a special episode of the On the Record, Off Script. The podcast.
My name is Mark Coffin, and I’m one of the hosts.
Now before we get to this week’s podcast, we wanted to share an update with you about what you can expect from us, and how often.
At Off Script we are somewhat new to podcasting. We’ve all been involved in politics, before we were all avid writers, and I’ve done a bit of sound production, but aside from that a lot of this is new to us.
So it’s taken us a few weeks to get our sea legs. Or, ears.
But now that we have a better sense of what we’re doing, we feel ready to make a commitment to you…
We’re going to release a new episode every week.
We’ll release each week’s podcast on Tuesday afternoons.
We’ll deliver two different types of episodes – and most weeks we’ll alternate between which kind we share with you.
The first kind of episode is the standard episode, and it’s the reason we created the Off Script podcast. It’ll be a piece of the story of the journey of an MLA, and it’s based on our findings from the Exit Interviews we did with former MLAs.
It will be somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes long, and it’ll be produced like a mini audio documentary. It takes us about two weeks to write and produce one of those episodes, so you’ll get one of those podcasts every two weeks. Starting next Tuesday.
Every other week, you’ll get one of our special episodes.
Special episodes are where we’ll share interviews, talks, and stories that we think you, the Off Script audience, will be interested in:
- Some weeks that might mean sharing an extended interview with one of the XMLAs we interviewed.
- Other weeks, it will mean sharing pieces of an interview with someone who isn’t an xMLA, but who has something to share about the experience of those who serve in the legislature; science professors, journalists – that sort of thing.
- And some weeks, it will mean sharing content that is relevant to what’s been happening in Canadian politics or Nova Scotia politics that week. For that, we’ll pull from some of our own archives of content from events we’ve hosted, or from public archives like the Nova Scotia legislature, or speeches given in other forums.
Whatever content you hear in a standard episode or a special episode, we’re going stay as close as possible to the spirit of the podcast – On the record, and off script – trying to tell the untold, unspoken, but meaningful stories of Nova Scotian politics.
Of course, we’ll take a bit of a break from writing standard episodes over the holidays, and from time to time throughout the year when things get busy, or vacations get in the way, we’ll also take a break – but we’ll make sure to stockpile some special episode content for you during those periods.
So next week, December 20th we’ll be sharing our last standard episode of the year with you. And we’ll pick up where we left off again on January 10th.
Alright, here’s this week’s podcast!
Mark Coffin: So the last few weeks of Nova Scotian politics has been anything but boring.
The Nova Scotia government and the Nova Scotia teachers union have been locked in an impasse for some time, and early last week that came to a head with an emergency sitting of the legislature in Halifax on Monday.
On the same day, outside of the legislature, Granville street was flooded with teachers and students, families and other supporters of the teachers protesting the government’s approach to negotiating a collective agreement with them.
It was one of the biggest protests we’ve seen in Nova Scotia in some time and it’s certainly one of the biggest we’ve seen under the term of Stephen McNeil’s liberal government.
Anytime there is a controversial decision made by a government in Nova Scotia, there is inevitably a large number of people who get more engaged because they care about that issue. Those people often end up learning a great deal about how politics works in Nova Scotia quite quickly.
The last time we’ve seen a decision this controversial was when the government decided to make cuts to the film tax credit in the Spring of 2015.
One of the people who learned something about how politics works at that time was Nelson MacDonald, who is a film producer, a Cape Bretoner, and full disclosure – a friend of mine.
Springtide hosted an event in June of 2015 called “Scene Change”, stories of the #NSFilmJobs movement.
Nelson was one of several activists who shared a story about how he got engaged to save the film tax credit. He shared the story about how he got kicked out of the legislature.
Here it is, and a heads-up for listeners with sensitive ears – Nelson likes to swear, and we didn’t bleep anything out.
Nelson Macdonald: I think, I’m still banned from the Nova Scotia Legislature for about– I’m really bad with numbers and I’m a film producer, that’s kind of embarrassing to admit– a lot, still quite a few days, yeah.
When I was… I’m so bad with numbers, I don’t even know those numbers. When I was a kid, some point when I was a kid, I think it was around 1997, in New Waterford. Two things happened that kind of come to mind when you guys are talking.
One, New Waterford Girl was shot in New Waterford, and I was a kid in maybe, and I, look, I love New Waterford, I’m the number one fan, but I can say this, it’s a shithole town, it sucks. You know that’s me as a kid, right?
We looked around, we all thought, this place sucks. Oh my god, what are we gonna do to get out of here quick? Oh my god, it was a lot of angst and anger and it was terrible. And that movie came to town, and I didn’t really, they came into the classroom, and they were like, we need kids to– And they had every kid in the class go around and say– And they were also shooting Pit Pony at the same time, right?
So this kept happening, they kept coming into our classroom, people that I know now, right, when I was 12 years old, 13 years old, they’d be like “Hey you, stand up and say this line.”
And I can’t quite remember the line, but it was something like, “Yeah, I’ll throw a rock at your window,” and that was the line, right.
And I remember they really liked Shane McClelland’s version and everybody in the class was like really, Shane, of everybody, what?
So, fast forward two years, 1999 or so. This is kind of one of the defining moments of my life, in a weird way, and in the community that I’m from. Certainly one of the biggest moments.
I was about, I guess I was like 15, and they closed the coal mines. That’s it, it’s closed, everybody’s out of work, see ya later, that’s it, it’s over. 100 and some years, that’s all anybody’s, that’s all we knew how to do, right. My dad wasn’t a coal miner, he was a construction worker. My grandfathers had worked in coal mines, and all of my friends’ dads worked in coal mines and everybody in the town was connected to the coal mines. Every single person.
And in the days that followed that announcement, I remember seeing the strongest people I knew, the strongest women and the strongest men, with weird looks on their face, and confused, and scared, and damaged, and weak, and just, like, strongest people. When the budget, thing, debacle is the word I’ve decided to use, the debacle.
When the budget thing happened, the debacle on April whatever, I saw some of my really strong friends in the film community in the next few days, and I said, I’ve seen this movie before. And it all came rushing back pretty quick, and this time I thought, you know what, I didn’t know what the hell was going on when I was 15 years old, other than, something’s up, right, like it was really weird.
This time I knew exactly what was up, and I thought okay, I gotta, I can do something this time, right. So I started trying to do some stuff. We made this crazy, silly video, Bob’s here, and Beth’s here, with Glen Matthews called Liberals 2015. We shot it with the team that actually shot Stephen McNeil’s campaign video, they came out to do it for free.
Yeah. But the story of how I got kicked out of the legislature, yeah kinda goes back to 1997 and maybe way before that. But it definitely goes back to joining the last election campaign. I’m sitting in my secure apartment building, near the north end and there’s a knock, knock, knock at my door, and it’s a gentleman with a red tie on, and he says, “Hi, I’m running in your district, I’d like to talk to ya for a few minutes.”
I said, you know what, I’ve actually been out covering some of the campaign, with Springtide, with Mark, I was helping him do some videos about the campaign, I’d been out, going door to door, following politicians, we had interviewed all of the leaders. So I was like, I had kinda made up my mind on what I was gonna do, I thought, right. So I said to him, look, I don’t wanna waste your time, I know you gotta knock on a lot of doors. Just keep going, good luck. Your knuckles must be really sore, I don’t know what I said.
But he said, “Oh well what do you do for a living?”
I said, “I work in film.”
And he said, “I love the film industry.”
And he said, “My daughter wants to be an actress when she grows up, and I’ve been on film sets and I see the impact they have, in the community, and for local businesses, and you’re a small business person just like me. I’m a small business person and you’re a small business person, I know and understand that, and the liberals, you might have seen it, we’re gonna extend the tax cut.”
That was all said at my door, every single word. That’s pretty much verbatim, okay. So, I’m not good with numbers but I’m good with, good at remembering words.
Okay, so, I say, holy, you know what, you guys are gonna win anyway, so I may as well vote for you. I regret that. So then, so then I say, the budget things happens, so I say shit, I gotta email this guy, he’s gonna be on my side, right, he came right to my door, I know, I remember every word he said.
So then I sat down and I wrote a really nice letter, something sincere like Ruby, I thought of Ruby and I wrote a really sincere thing and it was like me on my best behavior sort of thing, right.
And then, no response.
And this was actually before the budget came out, because we had kind of, we knew after the comments that were made by the finance minister in advance that something was up, and I wanted to try to talk to him about it then.
And then I tweeted at him, and he responded and said, “I’d love to meet up.” He said “Email me,” and I said “I did already.” It was a heartfelt letter, you might remember it; didn’t. Then, so then I emailed him again, and no response.
And then I tweeted him again, he said “Email me.” And then I, yeah. So fast forward to the day of the rally. And I’m down there at the rally and it’s a beautiful day, I think it was the hottest day of the year so far. [laughter] I got a sunburn.
[Voice in Crowd]: In more ways than one.
Nelson Macdonald: Yeah, I got a sunburn that day. It was–
[Voice in Crowd]: It was auspicious.
Nelson Macdonald: Yeah. So I’m walking around with my little sign, and I’ve got my Cape Breton flag, right. And everybody’s there, and I feel really good about the job that all, everybody’s done to put that together, and there’s, shit, there’s people from New Waterford who I know, came out.
Didn’t have to be there, they had no connection to the industry other than me, and they came down from their offices. Maybe they just wanted to get out of work, that’s kind of a New Waterford thing, but they came out and they came down to the rally, and I thought that was so awesome.
And then my friend Alex says to me, “You know, you can go inside the legislature in there and watch what’s going on.” I didn’t know you could do that, I didn’t think they’d let us in there so I said, “Oh, really, shit, okay.”
And then, so, I told my friend Jason and a few other folks and they were like, “Oh yeah, we should go in there and see what’s going on, see what they’re doing about all this.” Because there’s thousands of people outside rallying.
So I go inside and they take a piece of ID, any of us can go down and we just need some ID with us, and they gave me a big sheet of rules, several sheets of rules to follow. Folks were all really nice down there, and they told me, I had an Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative shirt on, I thought it was nice, but they wanted me to cover that up. And I said no, I’m not doing that, I just walked in anyway.
You get in there, and it’s kind of like a horseshoe kind of theatre thing, and then you’re up in the gallery and you’re looking down on all of our MLAs down there, doing their, well, theatre is a good metaphor I guess. (laughter)
And I sat down and then I thought, oh, I can’t see the gentleman who came to my door from where I’m sitting, I’m gonna sit down and watch, see what he’s doing. So then I walked around and they said, yeah, you can sit wherever you want, okay, cool. So I sat down, and I stood, I sat there, not stood, I sat.
I watched, and I watched him, and I watched his behavior. And then some of the other behavior as well, and there was quite a few film industry folks who’ve been down to the legislature, to the gallery in the last couple of months, for the first time ever, like me, and they were pretty horrified at what they saw, and I was really disappointed.
And a lot of feelings started coming up, you know.
I was sitting there, trying to follow all the rules, I wasn’t tweeting about anything, I wasn’t clapping, I wasn’t– I was sitting down, I wasn’t– I was following all the rules except for my T shirt. And I lasted probably about, well it was about the 12 minute mark.
At first, I got in there, and they were doing this thing where, everybody stands up and they say, Mr. Speaker, I want to take a second here to honor, I’m gonna use a local example, my favorite pizza shop in New Waterford, Fat Boy’s Pizza on 30 years worth of business, Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that they’re doing a great job in the community there, and they’ve got a great menu, Mr. Speaker, and you should all check it out, Mr. Speaker.
And they go on like this, and I’m like what the fu– When does this…? And this is getting me kinda, I’m confused but I’m angry, and then, so the opposition members, they’re standing up and they’re giving these, they take the opportunity to, and I appreciated it, they were giving kinda heartfelt little vignettes, snappy little deals, about people in the film industry who were affected by the changes, right, and what would happen.
So they were talking about my friends, they were talking about the folks that were outside rallying. And I’ll tell ya, my guy wasn’t doing a very good job of listening. And I’m watching him, and these are friends’ stories, and then he starts yelling stuff sometimes when people are talking about my friends, alright. I was getting madder.
And I was thinking about maybe jumping down.
And then, so this is about the 10 minute mark, it wasn’t very long, lots of people were saying lots of stuff, getting me angry. And then all of a sudden, things change and they’re done talking about the pizza shops. And it’s time to ask some questions to the premier. Jamie Baillie stands up and he asks a question, and the premier gives his answer.
And then buddy down the row from me there gets kicked out. And honestly he got kicked out, and I wasn’t really into what he said, and I was kinda like, that’s kinda, that was kinda dumb.
Yeah, and then, okay. So then the next question, and I got it with me. They keep all of this stuff online, there’s a website where you can see all the stupid stuff they say.
So if you want to see the pizza shop thing, that’s on it. Question was, it was a long question actually. “Mr. Speaker, my question for the premier is, will he provide this house with all options and every shred of analysis that his cabinet and treasury board had before them when they chose to gut the film tax credit?”
And then this, Mr. Premier, I don’t remem- Mr. Premier.
He says, “Mr. Speaker, what is scandalous is to stand here and listen to the leader of the other party, who after four years in government, embedded into the cost of this province seven million in wages if you had just simply gone to the grow the economy we were two million more in the treasury probably we’d have 100 million surplus not only would we invest in every hospital room Mr. Speaker, and we could invest in the private sector and every classroom too, and to the jobs in this province, Mr. Speaker, two–“
And then, my guy, oh my god, this was dumb, like he wasn’t even saying anything, it wasn’t about anything that was happening outside, it became very clear to me that nothing that was happening in this very, very nice room, with good acoustics, had anything to do with what was really happening outside.
There was no discussion happening here, there was no problem solving being done here, there was no fixing things being done here. And you ever have a situation where, you have a moment, maybe it’s like, I don’t know, you’re doing a home renovation, sometimes I’m on a film set, right, I’m a producer, I’m on a film set, and I’m like, I get this feeling, and it’s like the oh shit, this is completely screwed up.
And you don’t know what you’re gonna do to fix it because it’s too screwed up. That was the feeling that I had, and then my guy, the guy I voted for that came to my door, leads a standing ovation for the premier’s comments. And they all get up, and everybody’s up and going on, right. And I was, that was it. I didn’t really feel like, like I said the guy who had just got thrown out I was kinda like, that was kinda dumb.
Then all of a sudden, I’m up.
What the fuck is, I’m up, and I say, I didn’t say Mr. Speaker, so that was a mistake.
I said Mr. My Guy, you came to my door. You lied to me, at my door, and now I’m at your door, and I’m at your house with all of your people and I’m telling you that you’re a liar.
And then I got kicked out.
So that was… And I felt shi-, I felt, I was still pissed off, and you know what, the people, the guards, were awesome. They were really cool.
There was one thing in here, if you see it on the website, it says, like, it doesn’t, it says, like, “disturbance” in brackets.
So, then I’m going at the door and I’m pissed off, and my friends are coming in, they’re like, and I’m getting escorted out by… These really nice officer dudes. And then my friends are like, what’s the matter, I’m like I got kicked out, and then they said, you’re banned for 90 days, and then I said I don’t wanna be in there anyway, that place sucks. And then I go out the door, and, I pick up my sign that I had by the fence.
And I’m like, this is, oh man, this is a bad situation in there, this sucks in there. Then though, it was really nice outside, and then, everybody’s at the rally having a great time, and I realized you know what, yeah, that Nova Scotia in that room sucks, but this Nova Scotia out here is pretty fucking awesome, right.
And these are my people, those people aren’t my people. Okay, there wasn’t even a representative from New Waterford in the goddamn place, right.
So I was the honorable member for New Waterford for that one day!
You guys would all get kicked out if you did that.
Mark Coffin: That was Nelson MacDonald, speaking at a storytelling event hosted by Springtide with Nova Scotian filmmakers in 2013 called Scene Change -#Stories of NSFilmJobs.
You can hear all the stories that were told at that event on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/SpringtideCo
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Until next Tuesday…