Nfld. & Labrador

House of Assembly reopens with a new face — and he's only 12 days old

While Premier Andrew Furey won the Humber-Gros Morne byelection, he has not yet been sworn in. It was two-week-old Alexander, whose mother is MHA Sarah Stoodley, who had the legislature abuzz.
Mount Scio MHA Sarah Stoodley had a baby 12 days ago. She was back on the House of Assembly floor, with Alexander in tow, thanks to legislative changes she spearheaded (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The House of Assembly reopened Monday after a one-week hiatus, and while Premier Andrew Furey still officially can't be on the floor of the legislature, there was a new face in the legislature. 

Mount Scio MHA Sarah Stoodley gave birth to her son Alexander 12 days ago. On Monday, she was back at her desk in the House, with her baby in a carrier. 

It was a historic moment, since it was Stoodley who pushed for a change in the legislation to allow this very thing to happen. 

"It's a huge honour.… he was very well behaved," she told reporters Monday, as she patted Alexander's back. 

"If someone is thinking about running but, you know, hesitant because potentially they might have kids, then hopefully this helps them consider that."

Stoodley had reached out to the clerk of the House of Assembly over the summer, to give notice that she was pregnant and the wheels were set in motion to allow children to join their parents on the job. The Department of Transportation and Works also added change tables to the washrooms.

The legislative change, to allow babies on the House of Assembly floor, was unanimously approved in mid-September, and Stoodley received a standing ovation after her speech. 

While Alexander got to watch question period from the floor, Premier Andrew Furey did not. While he won the byelection in Humber-Gros Morne district on Oct. 6, he has not yet been sworn in as an MHA. 

The earliest that could happen is Thursday, because the results are published in the Gazette 12 clear days after the official count of the votes in the byelection, according to Bruce Chaulk, commissioner of legislative standards.  

The official count was Oct. 9. 

The details of Furey's swearing-in ceremony are expected to be available in the next day or two, his office said. 

Speaker on 'schoolgirl' comment

House Speaker Scott Reid kicked off Monday's legislative session by addressing a controversy that simmered last week.

He ruled that Conception Bay South MHA Barry Petten did not breach privilege when he referred to MHA Lisa Dempster as "cackling … like a schoolgirl."

The incident happened during a debate of a private member's motion to push the next general election to October 2021. 

Petten said Dempster, whose cabinet duties include the status of women portfolio, was "cackling over there like a schoolgirl."

Dempster called out Petten the next day, in an emotional speech delivered ahead of question period. 

"Using the term 'schoolgirl,' with the intent to belittle, condescend and scold was wrong, and it was a breach of privilege," Dempster said, her voice breaking at times. 

"The words we choose impact our attitudes, actions and behaviour toward women."

Premier Andrew Furey is watching the proceedings of the House of Assembly, because he is not permitted on the floor just yet. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Petten apologized after Dempster's statement, as he had the prior day.  

"I do offer my sincere apologies. That's not who I am. I do feel very unfortunate that she feels that way, and I do withdraw my remarks."

Usually, when a MHA apologizes and withdraws remarks the matter is over, Reid said last week, but he wanted to review the transcripts and look into the issue further. 

While no breach of privilege happened and Petten already apologized, Reid noted, he urged MHAs to be respectful of eachother. 

"I ask all honourable members to examine the language they use in the House and to ensure it is temperate, appropriate and respectful," Reid said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Stephanie Kinsella and Mark Quinn

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