Nfld. & Labrador

Don Dunphy inquiry will definitely be held, Andrew Parsons says

Newfoundland and Labrador's new justice minister says the Liberal government will proceed with a promised public inquiry into the shooting death of Don Dunphy last Easter.
Andrew Parsons, former critic for the justice and health, is the new minister of Justice and Public Safety and attorney general. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's new justice minister says the Liberal government will proceed with a promised public inquiry into the shooting death of Don Dunphy last Easter, although Andrew Parsons says it cannot happen until a police investigation is finished.

In an interview Tuesday, Parsons said the Liberals will also stick to a commitment to hold a public inquiry into a controversial contract with Humber Valley Paving, the company that had been owned by well-connected Tory Frank Coleman.

"We promised public inquiries, and they will happen," Parsons told the Corner Brook Morning Show.

Dunphy was shot dead in his home in Mitchells Brook by a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer who had gone to the community to follow up on a tweet that a premier's officer staffer had identified as a possible security threat.

Few official details about the incident have been released about the shooting.

The RCMP is handling the criminal investigation into the incident, while the Saskatoon Police Service has been called in to help with the RNC's internal review.

"The RNC will cooperate fully in a public inquiry into the death of Mr. Dunphy. An inquiry will shed light on the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic loss of life," said RNC Chief William Janes in a statement to the CBC Tuesday.

Parsons said a public inquiry into what happened in the Dunphy case will need to wait until the investigation is finished.

"There's an active investigation into the death of Mr. Dunphy, so we have to let that play out," said Parsons.

"We don't want to interfere with an investigation, but we promised an inquiry, and at the end of the day, the people of the province want to make sure all the questions are answered, and so do we."

Humber Valley contract still under scrutiny

Parsons said the Liberals are keen to honour commitments made in Opposition about inquiries, including a probe into a cancelled Humber Valley Paving contract that came under fierce criticism from the auditor general's office.

The former PC government released the company from paying a penalty after it walked away from uncompleted highway work in Labrador, even though the province could have kept a $10-million bond.

Coleman had relinquished control of the company before he started an ill-fated campaign to become PC leader and premier. Coleman abandoned his political ambitions in June 2014, just weeks before he would have become premier.

Nick McGrath was later forced to resign as transportation minister when Auditor General Terry Paddon released a report that found the cancellation was pushed through in just a few hours, and that normal procedures were not followed. 

Parsons said the inquiries are important parts of his mandate, although he noted he has not yet been fully briefed on issues in his portfolio.

No assumptions made on portfolio

Parsons and the rest of cabinet were sworn in Monday during a ceremony at Government House in St. John's.

Because he is the only lawyer in the Liberal caucus, pundits had pegged Parsons as the obvious choice as attorney-general, as well as the justice portfolio.

Parsons said he never made that assumption.

"Until I got the call from the premier, I certainly didn't take anything for granted," he said.

"I'm excited and thrilled to be given the opportunity — really, it's a dream come true for me. I'm really looking forward to getting into the department and getting down to work."

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