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POLL: MHAs to apologize, receive sensitivity training

Mount Scio MHA Dale Kirby.
Mount Scio MHA Dale Kirby. - David Maher file photo/The Telegram

Kirby and Joyce found guilty of violating the MHA Code of Conduct

Mount Scio MHA Dale Kirby and Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce have been found in violation of the MHA Code of Conduct by members of the House of Assembly.

Speaker Perry Trimper asked Joyce to stand in his place and apologize for his behaviour.

Here is a full, unedited transcript of Joyce’s apology: “I apologize.”

Kirby left the House of Assembly before he could be called on to apologize. It’s unclear when his apology will take place.

Late on Tuesday, MHAs voted to reprimand both MHAs. In addition to the apologies, the MHAs will undergo “individualized respectful workplace training” after amendments brought forward by the NDP were approved before the final votes.

While the Liberals voted for the recommendations of apology and of training, they voted against another amendment to have Kirby and Joyce suspended without pay for 21 days as their punishment, brought forward by the Tories.

Government House Leader Andrew Parsons’ reasoning was that his party would respect the recommendations of the Commissioner for Legislative Standards Bruce Chaulk and that his original recommendation of a simple apology was enough.

In the lead-up to the vote on Joyce’s reprimand, he made repeated pleas, stating he was “confident (I) did nothing wrong.”

Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce.
Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce.

Joyce said he had been “protecting” Premier Dwight Ball throughout the investigative process and subsequent debate. He also accused Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh – one of the complainants against him – of leaking cabinet documents, without providing evidence on the floor of the House of Assembly.

Ultimately, the House voted to force Joyce to apologize and undergo training.

Joyce’s punishment stems from a hiring process where he was found to have pressured Gambin-Walsh to get a friend of his a job in the public service. The person did not receive an interview for the position. Nevertheless, in his report, Chaulk found Joyce in violation of the Code of Conduct.

“His behaviour during the hiring process fell below the standard expected of a member of the House of Assembly,” Chaulk wrote in the Oct. 18 report.

“I find that the manner in which he addressed this issue was unprofessional and showed a lack of mutual respect towards members of the public service by placing those individuals in the middle of a process that is supposed to be politically impartial.”

Gambin-Walsh gave a lengthy speech on the floor of the House on Tuesday evening, outlining the emotional impact of the entire process since April.

“Forty per cent of Canadian workers experience harassment on a weekly basis. In all cases, it’s a form of power struggle. The causes, however, have received little systemic attention, beyond analysis of the personality attributes of bullies,” said Gambin-Walsh.

“The interplay of relational powerlessness and organizational chaos gives rise to bullying. There is a need for organizations to eliminate chaos — chaos that creates openings for abuse of power.”

Kirby’s punishment comes after an investigation in which Chaulk found Kirby in violation of the Code of Conduct after a complaint came forward from Harbour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons.

Specifically, Kirby violated Principle 5 of the Code of Conduct. The commissioner found that when Kirby spoke with Parsons at the Liberal annual general meeting in 2016 he was “attempting to garner support for his position for private reasons.”

The conversation outlined in the report took place either in the parking lot of the hotel or in a hotel room at the Hotel Gander – Kirby claimed the former, Parsons the latter, and the matter was not clarified during debate.

Kirby tried to stop Parsons from speaking out against the 1.6-kilometre school busing rule implemented by the government, suggesting she should either toe the party line or leave the caucus, according to Chaulk’s report.

Kirby left the House of Assembly once the vote was called. He did not return for the rest of the evening’s sitting.

The Liberal and NDP caucuses voted unanimously for the sanction, along with Mount Pearl Southlands MHA Paul Lane. The Progressive Conservative caucus voted against the motion to reprimand Kirby, because they felt the punishment wasn’t harsh enough.

Ches Crosbie
Ches Crosbie

“We think a reprimand, even if it includes training, is an inadequate penalty,” said PC Leader Ches Crosbie.

“We moved for a 21-day suspension without pay. We voted against the proposition that a reprimand, even with training, is sufficient.”

The amendment for a suspension was defeated by the Liberal caucus earlier in the sitting.

Parsons, who filed the original complaint, declined an interview after the vote, but did speak in the House of Assembly before the vote.

“This was never about gender. It’s about behaviour,” said Parsons.

“It’s comforting to know that our efforts were not in vain. We have played a role in helping bring about the best bullying and harassment policies in the country.”

The Privileges and Elections Committee, of which Parsons is a member, is reviewing harassment policies across the country and will soon report to the House with a new policy.

Another investigation, to determine whether Kirby was in contempt of the House of Assembly by leaking the reports early, continues. Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway is also under investigation, at the behest of Kirby.

The other three reports, in which no reprimands were recommended, were accepted without amendment and no punishment for Kirby or Joyce.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL


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