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Opposition blasts Dexter over board picks

Opposition parties are up in arms after three controversial union members were appointed to a premier’s advisory board.

Opposition parties are up in arms after three controversial union members were appointed to a premier’s advisory board.

Of the 19 appointments from business, labour and volunteer sectors on the Premier’s Council on the Economy, the one that raised the most eyebrows was Cordell Cole.

Cole was head of the Mainland Building and Construction Trades Council when it funnelled $45,000 in illegal donations to the NDP last year. The money was returned by the party, who said they had no idea the donations skirted election laws.

The union was spared a police investigation when the statute of limitations on charges ran out.

While the advisory board is unpaid, opposition leaders said Cole should not be placed in a position to influence government policy.

“There are some good people on that council, but to appoint someone who during the election campaign was trying to get around election rules is an insult to Nova Scotians,” said Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.

For good measure, the Liberals circulated a 2008 letter from Dexter to Cole where the now-premier addresses the union leader as “Brother Cole” and signs it “In solidarity.”

The opposition also argued NSGEU president Joan Jessome and CUPE president Danny Cavanagh should not have been put on an economic advisory board because, in retaliation to the Canadian Federation for Independent Business urging government to cut jobs, they called for a boycott against the CFIB.

Premier Darrell Dexter said the council encompasses a broad base of groups, which qualifies Cole.

“People weren’t picked because of their political affiliation. They were picked because of what they can provide to the economic council,” said Dexter.

“These people are giving up their time freely to come in to provide advice ... for the purposes of helping us build the economy. I’m very thankful for all of them.”

Dexter wouldn’t comment on the union/CFIB spat but criticized McNeil for having an anti-union bias and portraying unions “in the worst possible light.”

 
 
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