Rogers says removal from house 'underhanded, low political tactic'
St. John's Centre NDP MHA Gerry Rogers said her removal from the house of assembly for refusing to apologize for comments made by others in a Facebook group wasted precious time for debate on Tuesday.
"It's such a shame that we basically lost Question Period and debate on the budget — really, really important issues that are facing the people of the province right now with cutbacks in programs and services, the layoffs," she said.
"One would assume that this was some kind of underhanded, low political tactic, and I don't think it worked."
Justice Minister Darin King said on Tuesday that Rogers was a member of an anti-Dunderdale Facebook group, which contained posts from other users that made death threats against Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
After a recess, Speaker Ross Wiseman asked Rogers to apologize — something she told CBC's St. John's Morning Show host Anthony Germain that she couldn't do.
"Out of respect for the house, out of respect for procedure, I could not apologize," she said.
"To have apologized, simply to take off the heat for something I had clearly not done, and also for something that was such a gross manipulation and misuse of the house by the premier, and the minister of justice, and their cabinet, to have done this, and to implicate members of the FFAW, other NDP members, was absolutely abuse of our house. I could not apologize."
Rogers said she was unaware that she was one of the 1,700 members of the Facebook group Kathy Dunderdale must GO!!!.
She said she was contacted on Tuesday night by Cassandra Parsons who started the group and had added Rogers to it. She said Parsons apologized profusely.
Not in the house
Rogers said she doesn't condone violence or threats in any way, shape, or form, but the house of assembly was no place to discuss this matter.
"If somebody … threatened violence against the premier, then that's a police matter. And that's being dealt with by the police now — as it should be; that's the proper procedure," she said.
Rogers said Facebook is a public forum, like attending a meeting or putting in a call to a radio talk show.
"People have a right to express their opinions. The fact that you are listening does not mean that you have signed on to a common set of beliefs or a constitution," she said.
Rogers said she was astounded by King's comments.
"Either he has a blatant lack of understanding of how Facebook works, or is purposely ignoring exactly how Facebook works, to use this for political gains — this is absolutely atrocious," she said.
"To actually ignore the fundamental basics of the nature of law and justice, by condemning someone without investigation, without facts, and then to not provide the opportunity for defense or explanation, is astounding."
Rogers once again took her seat in the house on Wednesday.