House of assembly slides to second-sleepiest status
N.L. legislature sat less than all provinces except P.E.I. in both 2011, and the last eight years combined
The Newfoundland and Labrador house of assembly sat for the fewest days last year since the Tories took office, dropping the province further down the list of active provincial legislatures.
The chamber at Confederation Building was open for debate just 33 days in 2011.
Other than 2003, that’s the lowest figure in at least a quarter-century, according to statistics maintained by the Parliament of Canada.
The Progressive Conservatives won the October 2003 election and did not reopen the house before the calendar page turned to a new year.
The dearth of sittings in 2011 pushed Newfoundland and Labrador to second-last in the legislative attendance list, ahead of only Prince Edward Island.
The ranking also applies to the past eight years of Tory rule combined.
Average annual sitting days by province, 2004-2011
Immediately after her election victory last fall, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the house would remain shuttered until the spring.
At the time, Dunderdale was critical of spending time in the legislature, blaming the opposition for poor research and questions and the general tenor of debate.
The premier was in British Columbia on Tuesday, and unavailable for an interview before deadline, according to a spokeswoman. Government House Leader Jerome Kennedy also did not return calls seeking comment.
But the Liberals and NDP had plenty to say about where Newfoundland and Labrador stacks up.
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons plans to introduce a private member’s bill to regulate the opening of the house in the future.
Parsons believes it is too important to leave to the "whim" of the premier.
"I think that the house is the main avenue for the people of this province to make sure that we are being governed properly," Parsons told CBC News.
"It seems lately that we've been relying on open-line shows and the media to do this, and that's, in my mind, a supplement. It's not meant to be the main discourse, it's just meant to add to the house."
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says the premier’s comments show a "lack of understanding and respect" for the role of the legislature.
Michael has called upon the Tory government to beef up the role of legislative committees. Dunderdale flatly rejected doing so.
Fewer than 45 days
The Newfoundland and Labrador house of assembly has sat, on average, fewer than 45 days annually over the past eight years.
The paucity of parliamentary sittings last year pushed the province further down the list, past Nova Scotia, which is averaging 46 days a year.
The top of the pops is Ontario, where MPPs spend more than 92 days a year in the legislature, on average — more than double the attendance record of their Newfoundland and Labrador counterparts.