MHAs offered anti-harassment training this week — but it's not mandatory
Training sessions part of government's harassment-free workplace policy announced in February
At the same time the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly is being rocked by allegations of harassment and bullying, MHAs have been receiving specialized training meant to help avoid the turmoil seen over the last week.
It's been a tumultuous week for the governing Liberals, with two MHAs ousted from cabinet and caucus over bullying allegations.
There's also been a steady stream of members coming forward with complaints against individuals and the overall culture of aggressiveness and intimidation within government.
In light of allegations against MHAs Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby, the province's commission of legislative standards is investigating complaints made against both politicians, but no timeline has been given as to when the investigations will be complete.
MHAs 1st to get new training
And while the party is dealing with the political firestorm, the premier and other caucus members have been attending training that is the first step of a new government anti-harassment policy that officially comes into effect June 1.
"Many, many weeks ago I stood in the House of Assembly and said that MHAs should be, and our caucus would be, the first to go through this training," Premier Dwight Ball told reporters on Tuesday.
"I actually attended a training session this morning. Many other MHAs did as well."
The training program is being conducted by the Human Resource Secretariat, and was available during multiple sessions this week for MHAs. It can be done during an in-person seminar or through an online course, but at this point it isn't mandatory.
Premier wants it to be mandatory
Ball said he would like to see all MHAs required to complete the sessions, just as it is for the public sector workforce, which will be operating under new harassment policies as of June 1.
"The recommendation I'm putting forward to our party leaders is to make this training mandatory," he said.
Ball said he had no knowledge of bullying or harassment within his ranks and said his "door has always been open" to those who want to come forward with complaints.
Health minister 'looking forward' to training
Health Minister John Haggie told reports he's scheduled to do the training on Friday, and was told about it late last week but that it wasn't deemed mandatory.
"I'm looking forward to doing my harassment training," he said. "I'd hate to be regarded as intimidating by errors or omissions."
Haggie wouldn't comment on specifics about the allegations, saying it's not his place to reveal details of what is discussed at cabinet or caucus meetings.
There have been no instances where he's personally felt bullied, Haggie said, but he added it's always a tricky thing balancing one's passion for certain issues and the need to be respectful of those who disagree with you.
"People can be very forceful in their approach," he said.
"It's very difficult when people are passionate, and they come to you with energy and enthusiasm for their cause and you have to maybe say no to them. It's difficult sometimes to separate the emotion from that."
With files from St. John's Morning Show