'Democracy in action': Dwight Ball says he has no plans to kill PC filibuster

The House of Assembly’s three-day marathon is threatening to stretch even longer, as Newfoundland and Labrador’s governing Liberals say they’re not considering forcing the ongoing filibuster session to a close.

Marathon debate session stretching into third day

Premier Dwight Ball said Wednesday his government had no immediate plans to cut off the filibuster in the House of Assembly. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The House of Assembly's three-day marathon is threatening to stretch even longer, as Newfoundland and Labrador's governing Liberals say they're not considering forcing the ongoing filibuster session to a close.

Premier Dwight Ball told reporters Wednesday his government was not about to bring a closure motion to the debate — and push forward a pair of resolutions related to his deeply-unpopular Spring budget.

"It's democracy in action," Ball said. "As long as the discussion becomes relevant to where it needs to be, I think it's important that we allow people to express themselves."

Opposition MHAs have been on their feet for hours, reading emails, giving lectures and drawing out debate on two measures, including the controversial deficit reduction levy.

Speaking for ten minutes at a time, the opposition has pushed the debate almost 55 hours and counting — except for a few short pauses.

They`ve spoken so long, the regularly scheduled business for Wednesday was cancelled.

Filling the air

PC Leader Paul Davis said on Wednesday that his party would keep the filibuster going. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Ball said he was not concerned about the cost of the filibuster — the added pay for pages, security staff and video crews — as one of his ministers criticized online.

He was, however, less than impressed with the PC speaking notes.

"Guess what? They're not coming up with anything in terms of solutions," he said.

"I'll accept the responsibility for the decisions that we made. Paul Davis and his previous administration, they seem unwilling to accept any responsibility for where we are today."

The Liberals have often charged the PCs with fiscal mismanagement, accusing them of creating a structural deficit that the new government now has to fix.

Davis retorted that his alternatives have been clear for months: his plan is the election platform he ran on last year.

"They always find someone else to blame," he replied. "They blame the former administration, they blame officials in departments, they blame the school board."

People to power?

The past few months have been rocky for the young Liberal government — an unpopular budget, the Ed Martin severance scandal, and now a filibuster session.

With the house debating around the clock, Davis said Wednesday that his party had no plans to finish the proceedings any time soon.

A bit of adrenaline and a couple hours sleep can really make you continue for several hours.- Paul Davis

"All night last night, we talked about issues in our districts and what we're hearing from constituents," he said. "We're bringing the message from the people of the province to the floor of the House of Assembly."

He said the opposition plan to fight through the night was fairly simple. The PCs have split themselves into two teams, relieving each other of their duties when it's time to take a break.

Inside the chamber, though, it seemed the tiredness had begun to set in. Much of Wednesday morning proceedings lacked structure.

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett begins to sit when confusion breaks out on the House of Assembly floor Wednesday morning. (House of Assembly)

After daring Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent to challenge a ruling, Minister Gerry Byrne mimicked karate chops from his seat. Speaker Tom Osborne walked onto the middle of the floor to talk with Graham Letto. Paul Lane heckled at Cathy Bennett from his corner.

Throughout it all, MHAs carried on their own conversations, or poked at their cellphones, not particularly attentive to whoever had the floor.

Still, Davis pledged to plow on.

"A bit of adrenaline, and a couple hours sleep, can really make you continue for several hours," he said.

About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.