HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's premier has responded to controversial comments a Progressive Conservative leadership candidate made in the legislature about the work ethic of Jamaicans during a debate on the province's bill to regulate recreational marijuana.
According to a transcript on the legislature's website, the comments by Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin came during a debate Tuesday over the Liberal government's proposed Cannabis Control Act.
Smith-McCrossin said she heard from a friend that "smoking in marijuana in Jamaica is completely accepted, and there's a completely different work ethic and very low productivity in Jamaica."
She went on to say that Nova Scotia already has a productivity problem, and legalized recreational pot may only make it worse.
Smith-McCrossin apologized in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil said Smith-McCrossin can speak for herself on the issue.
However, McNeil noted that Jamaican farm workers are often employed by farms in his constituency in the Annapolis Valley.
"Those of us in the valley welcome the Jamaicans who come every year and do a tremendous job in the agricultural sector," he said after he was asked about the comments. "I can tell you I've heard nothing but positive (comments) about the work ethic of the Jamaicans who come to work on behalf of businesses in the valley."
Smith-McCrossin, who represents the riding of Cumberland North, said in a Facebook post that the comments "were criticized as racist and insensitive."
She said she never meant for her words to be hurtful, and the comments don't represent the views of her party or its interim leader, Karla MacFarlane.
"My comments came about as a result of a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is a woman of colour originally from Jamaica," Smith-McCrossin wrote.
"I made a mistake in my choice of words in the House of Assembly and take full responsibility for that ... I sincerely did not feel that my comments would be viewed in a negative light, but I was wrong.
"I apologize for my choice of words and any impression left that this was based on someone’s country, race or ethnicity."
The Canadian Press