Nfld. & Labrador

Fiery exchanges, pointed questions, but debate on harassment reports pushed to Wednesday

The five reports were tabled Tuesday, but the House of Assembly will resume 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The commissioner of legislative standards has completed his work

MHAs Eddie Joyce, left, and Dale Kirby sit in the House of Assembly on Tuesday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

The five official reports into harassment allegations that rocked the House of Assembly last spring have been tabled — but it will be Wednesday before the details are debated by politicians.

The reports — three involving accusations against Eddie Joyce and two related to Dale Kirby — will be up for discussion Wednesday at 10 a.m. when the House resumes.

In his first appearance in the House of Assembly as an elected MHA, PC Leader Ches Crosbie came out swinging Tuesday, and set his sights on Kirby and Premier Dwight Ball.

Crosbie accused Kirby of leaking the reports of which he is at the centre.

"We now have to contend with the circus," Crosbie said.

Kirby responded, stating that "leaked" is a "misuse of that language."

House Speaker Perry Trimper said he would take a day to rule on whether action to censure Kirby in the House of Assembly, related to Crosbie's leaking allegations, should proceed.

Speaking with reporters after question period, Crosbie said Kirby's actions should be examined closely.

"We need to have a look at and consider any sanctions for his conduct in releasing and leaking these reports in violation of House procedure, which exists to safeguard people's rights. That's, in our view, a serious offence."

"Let's first decide if he's guilty of a breach of privilege, and then we'll decide on what the appropriate penalty ought to be. That's how it works in the courts."

MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh says she's not satisfied with the outcome of the report conducted into Joyce's conduct toward her. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Liberal MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh, whose complaint forms the basis of the Oct. 18th report, said the reports should have never been leaked.

"I don't feel good about that process at all, but it is out there and I guess now we have to deal with it," she said Tuesday.

Gambin-Walsh also stressed that she wasn't satisfied with the process undertaken by Legislative Standards Commissioner Bruce Chaulk in preparing the reports.

"The report that's been tabled today — I'm not satisfied with the outcome of the report. However the commissioner was legislated to do the report, so I will accept that."

'Zero tolerance'

Ball, facing constant questions from Crosbie, vowed multiple times, "Harassment and bullying is not acceptable, and there will be zero tolerance."

"This must be a harassment-free workplace."

But in one of his responses, Ball admitted that "the process has had many questions and no doubt has been flawed."

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball speaks to media before the House of Assembly session on Tuesday. During the session, Ball said there is zero tolerance for harassment in the Liberal caucus. (CBC)

Kirby released the findings in his case involving Liberal MHA Pam Parsons on Friday. He's mostly been cleared of wrongdoing except for one instance where — over a joint — he told Parsons he loved her, that she was beautiful and to stop being so vocal.

Premier Dwight Ball said MHAs should have known better than to smoke marijuana prior to legalization. 

"I expect MHAs to follow the law. MHA's are held to a higher standard, there's laws in place," the premier told reporters on Tuesday.

"These are lawmakers, and we expect lawmakers to follow the law."

Meanwhile, Joyce, the other former Liberal MHA accused of bullying and harassment, has turned down CBC's interview requests. Other media outlets have reported he's also mostly been cleared of allegations against him.

In August, Chaulk rejected Liberal MHA Colin Holloway's claim that he was bullied, intimidated and harassed by Kirby and Joyce.  

The investigation

Complainants questioned the Legislative Standards Commission process in May when it was first announced.

At the time, Gambin-Walsh told CBC her understanding was that the process "historically only dealt with financial issues, never with harassment or bullying."

Bruce Chaulk is the Commissioner of Legislative Standards. (CBC)

Progressive Conservative MHA Tracey Perry, another complainant, wanted the premier to go another route, independent of government.

Chaulk, at the time, acknowledged he wasn't a harassment investigator but said he would bring in people with experience.

"For those who have lodged complaints, I hope that this process gives them a sense of justice," Rogers said Monday.

"I just don't know that it will."

The House of Assembly's regular fall sitting is scheduled to start Nov 5.

With files from Katie Breen

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