Nfld. & Labrador

Dale Kirby removed from cabinet and caucus after complaints

There were also questions in the legislature Thursday about a town's complaint against the MHA for Terra Nova, but those allegations are not being investigated.

Another complaint against MHA Colin Holloway by Town of Port Blandford not under investigation

Dale Kirby has been removed from cabinet and caucus. (John Gushue/CBC)

Dale Kirby started the day as Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, but was stripped of his cabinet position and booted from the Liberal caucus by the afternoon.

Premier Dwight Ball broke the news before question period on Monday, telling reporters complaints had been made against Kirby in the morning.

Kirby and former Municipal Affairs minister Eddie Joyce will sit as Independents.

"This is not about control over caucus, this is about keeping the integrity of the government I lead," Ball told reporters.

Kirby was criticized last week for sending an email in which he demanded the person who made a complaint against Joyce come forward.

Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh eventually told reporters that she had filed a complaint.

The Progressive Conservative MHA for Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, Tracey Perry, also said she intends to file a complaint against Joyce.

Perry announced plans to introduce a private member's bill on workplace harassment at the legislature on Wednesday.

Ball said the complaints against Kirby were neither physical nor sexual in nature, and said an investigation would now be undertaken by the commissioner of legislative standards.

In the meantime, Al Hawkins will take over Kirby's portfolio. It is not clear how long the reviews of Kirby and Joyce will take.

Kirby, 46, has been a controversial — and often divisive — figure in Newfoundland and Labrador politics for several years, and in more than Liberal circles. 

Kirby was elected to the legislature in 2011 as a New Democrat, having been a key NDP organizer for years.

However, he ran into conflict with then-leader Lorraine Michael over her leadership style, and quit the caucus in October 2013 with fellow MHA Christopher Mitchelmore.

Both later joined the Liberals.

Complaint against Colin Holloway

During a bitter back-and-forth in question period, Paul Davis asked about a third complaint, and revealed it was against Colin Holloway — the member for Terra Nova.

A letter of complaint was sent by the Town of Port Blandford on April 5, Davis said, alleging Holloway provided them with false information with the intent to mislead.

"It has to do with Mr. Holloway's conduct and the way he's conducted himself with the municipality," said Davis.

Colin Holloway is the member for the District of Terra Nova. (CBC)

Ball confirmed he received a letter of complaint on Apr. 12, and sent it to the commissioner of legislative standards, who decided not to launch an investigation after determining it was not in the general public interest.

Holloway was investigated by the commissioner of legislative standards once before, over text messages he sent to St. Brendan's Mayor Veronica Broomfield.

In those messages, they were discussing changes to the island's ferry service, when Holloway said, "Remember, you did not vote for me."

In that instance, the commissioner recommended Holloway receive a minor punishment.

Holloway accused Davis of bullying him.

"This is very hurtful, I can tell you that," said Holloway as he choked up. "We stand in that House, and they are talking about bullying and intimidation, and this is bullying and intimidation at its finest."

He then called on the new PC leader, Ches Crosbie, to remove Davis from caucus.

"This cannot be tolerated. I am sick and tired of this. This has to stop."

Opposition party leaders speak out

But Crosbie said he wouldn't do that.

He said he first heard of allegations about misbehaviour in the Liberal caucus starting in January.

"It starts from the top. If this kind of misbehaviour that's being described and referred to is occurring, it's because it was tolerated by those who could have stopped it," he said.

Gerry Rogers says the harassment allegations must be addressed so the House of Assembly can get back to work. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

NDP leader Gerry Rogers said she too had been hearing whispers.

"The people of the province are fed up, I as an elected MHA am fed up, it's time to really change the culture in how we do the work of the people," she said.

"We have to take care of this so we can take of the business on the behalf of the people of the province. Enough is enough."

What about the Parsons email?

Throughout QP, Davis repeatedly asked Ball when he became aware of allegations of inappropriate behaviour by a cabinet minister — with Ball saying he first received an official complaint last Wednesday.

Davis asked about an email sent to Justice Minister Andrew Parsons last fall about Joyce's behaviour, which Parsons did not reply to.

Paul Davis wouldn't name names but asked a series of questions about whether Dwight Ball has been dealing with complaints about bullying or harassment. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

On Monday, Ball said he was "not OK" with the lack of a response from Parsons.

Parsons defended himself, saying the email did not mention bullying or harassment, and did not call for any action on his part.