N.S. Liberal leader faces barrage of criticism over ousting of young female candidate

HALIFAX – A young woman’s angry denunciation of Nova Scotia’s Liberals for dropping her candidacy over revealing photos left leader Iain Rankin exposed Friday to wider critiques of his leadership style.

“This was supposed to be a boring summer campaign and now it’s really not … and the Liberal party is getting attention for the wrong reasons,” Lori Turnbull, an associate professor at the school of public administration at Dalhousie University, said Friday in an interview.

The controversy appeared minor on Saturday, when Robyn Ingraham announced she would not be running in Dartmouth South, citing “the time commitment and intensity of a campaign and the impact it will have on my mental health.”

But in a terse social media post days later, Ingraham stated the real reason she was forced to leave was because of photos she had taken and posted on multiple platforms, including the OnlyFans subscription service.

“I explained that I love to show off the artwork on my skin, and I have no problem taking boudoir photos alone and with friends,” she said Wednesday on Instagram.

Ingraham claims that on the eve of the election call and after some photos had become public, she was told by party workers she was being dropped as a candidate. She says she was asked to blame her mental illness as the reason for exiting the campaign.

A barber and small business owner, Ingraham also published an email she said she had sent to Rankin, which stated the party had made a mistake by forcing her out. “The misogynistic behaviour of those above you is not tolerable,” she wrote to the premier. “It’s not my job to make old white men comfortable.”

On Friday, Rankin’s news conference in rural Cape Breton about tourism funding quickly turned into a barrage of questions from reporters about how the ousting of Ingraham occurred, what was said and who was responsible. He confirmed his team “assisted” Ingraham with her resignation statement and said he has been repeatedly trying to contact her to learn her version of events.

Rankin also told CTV news during the news conference he’s “sad to lose a candidate in this race,” adding there were elements in Ingraham’s public Instagram post that made him “uncomfortable.”

But in a brief interview with The Canadian Press at her barber shop in Dartmouth, N.S., Ingraham said she doesn’t plan to talk with Rankin.

“I haven’t spoken to him and I have no intention of speaking to him,” she said.

“I just wanted my story to get out there.”

She also said she doesn’t want to run for any other party. “I just want to get back to running my business,” she said at her shop, called Devoted Barbers and Co.

Tory Leader Tim Houston says the incident suggests there’s been a pattern of alleged misogynistic attitudes in the premier’s office, in reference to the resignation of former Liberal cabinet minister Margaret Miller in June.

At the time, emails had emerged in which Miller had suggested a staff person in Rankin’s office had displayed misogynistic behaviour.

“Margaret Miller, a former minister colleague of (Rankin’s) for seven years, raised concerns about misogynistic behaviour,” Houston told reporters Friday. “He never even picked up the phone and called her. That’s concerning.”

Houston added that Rankin consistently blames others when he should be directly involved in decisions such as the vetting of candidates.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill, who made a child care announcement in Halifax Friday, has responded to Ingraham’s allegations by calling on parties to take a stand against misogynistic attacks on female candidates.

Turnbull says the controversy has forced Rankin off his campaign themes and onto the defensive, and she raised questions about his oversight of staff. “He’s said in his statement that the party is committed to openness and inclusion and this is an example of someone excluded,” the professor said.

“This is a reflection on the party that will carry across the province.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.

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