Prince Edward Island worker liberated from job by Conservative government fights back

Worker challenged entrenched patronage practices, seeks $300,000 for political discrimination

A Prince Edward Island man who was fired from his job because of his political affliation is hoping the end to a long battle over political discrimination will soon be over.

John MacTavish, 43, worked as an asphalt raker for the province’s Department of Transportation and Public Works under a Liberal provincial government. After a Conservative government was voted into power in 1996, about 1,000 government workers, including the Liberal-supporting MacTavish, were fired as part of a common practice where seasonal jobs were given to political supporters.

However, sentiment in Prince Edward Island began changing soon after and many realized this type of practice was contrary to the constitutional protection from discrimination based on political affiliation. Hundreds of workers filed discrimination suits and most were settled for varying amounts. MacTavish was offered $1,450, but he considered this an insult and didn’t cover his family expenses or the hardship he endured that led to personal bankruptcy and a drinking problem.

“I was tossed aside like a dirty sock,” MacTavish told the Canadian Press.

The provincial government made him another offer for $59,000 and his old job back, but MacTavish declined and asked for $127,000 in lost wages, $50,000 in damages for hurt and humiliation and $33,000 in lost benefits. He also wants the government to pay nearly $100,000 for his legal bills.

MacTavish is the last out of hundreds of people fired for political reasons that hasn’t settled. If he wins the more than $300,000 his lawyers are asking for, it will be one of the largest awards for political discrimination in Prince Edward Island’s history. However, the government is claiming MacTavish mitigated his income loss with other work and actually made more money than his lost wages.

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