Nfld. & Labrador

Who offered the job, and when? Mitchelmore report dominates legislature

Debate during question period centered again on the actions of Christopher Mitchelmore Wednesday, and like the two days before, the cabinet minister stayed mum.

'She just didn't show up at The Rooms doorstep one day saying, 'I want a job': PC MHA

Christopher Mitchelmore would not speak to CBC as he walked into the House of Assembly on Tuesday. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Debate during question period Wednesday centered again on the actions of Christopher Mitchelmore related to the hiring of Carla Foote at The Rooms, and like the two days before, the cabinet minister stayed mum.

Instead, Premier Dwight Ball stood firm in his position — and at times, repeated his message of no wrongdoing on his part — as he fielded a barrage of questions from the opposition on The Mitchelmore Report.

"This is astounding. Someone needs to tell us, who offered her the job?" asked Tory MHA Barry Petten.

"She just didn't show up at The Rooms doorstep one day saying, 'I want a job.'"

Ball has maintained that neither he, nor his staff, ordered that Carla Foote, a former Liberal communications director, be given the position of executive director of marketing at The Rooms. She is also the daughter of lieutenant-governor and former federal Liberal minister Judy Foote.

"There was a process. I was not involved in that, that put Ms. Foote in there," Ball said.

Bernard Davis touted the success at The Rooms during question period Wednesday in the House of Assembly. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

The report was written by the commissioner for legislative standards, and recommends a reprimand for Mitchelmore. 

Bruce Chalk, after reviewing two reports by the Office of the Citizens' Representative, said the Liberal MHA for St. Barbe-L'Anse aux Meadows "grossly mismanaged" his obligations with respect to the code of conduct.

Still waiting for apology

Petten, meanwhile, asked when Ball found out Foote was leaving for The Rooms. And who told him?

Ball did not answer directly, instead referring to the report which says it was signed off on by the then-CEO Dean Brinton and the cabinet secretariat.

Amid calls for Mitchelmore's dismissal, Ball repeated his support for the minister, who now has the portfolio of advanced education and skills, and noted Mitchelmore had already said he would apologize. 

Current Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Bernard Davis was as equally as repetitive as he dodged pointed questions from the NDP and PCs.

Davis touted the new increased success at the provincial cultural hub.

"There has been increased visits to the Rooms, more exhibits," he said. "It's an impressive situation."

Premier Dwight Ball denies any involvement in directing the hiring of Carle Foote at The Rooms. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Members of the House of Assembly have been debating since Tuesday on the actions of Mitchelmore, but their reasons why are vastly different.

Liberals members have said during Wednesday's debate that a lateral job transfer within government is normal, while the opposition says the job appointment process of Foote was clearly wrong.

"I stand here today with two emotions: one of them is actually anger. I'm actually feeling anger at what's going on in this House today. I also feel ashamed — ashamed at the defence of the indefensible," said Torngat Mountains PC MHA Lela Evans.

Evans said she has been through the report prepared by the commissioner and it spells out "in black and white" that the way the job was appointed without competition was a breach of code of conduct.

"I'm not gonna be a part of it. I will not be shamed," Lela said, banging her hand on her desk.

"I will not be shamed by the behaviour of this House, and to have respectable people stand, people that I respect, and have to actually defend the behaviours, it's not right."

Evans said Premier Dwight Ball's comments on Tuesday defending Foote as a good woman who was good at her job, as well as her mother Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, "another really good woman who's put in a lot of time and service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," aren't the point.

In addition, whether or not Mitchelmore is hard working and a good representative for his district also isn't in question, Evans said.

When we defend bad behaviour — when we defend things that's not defensible — we lose our credibility.- MHA Lela Evans

"Why would you have to defend a hiring? Why would you talk about how good the person is at their job, from his personal experience?" Evans said of Ball's comments.

"The reason why he had to defend it is because the proper process for hiring was not followed."

Evans said the whole process has been a "farce" that has been difficult to sit and watch.

"My communities are in chaos right now. Chaos. Wondering how they're gonna be able to actually feed themselves this winter. And we're spending two days discussing this," she said, adding it's the public perception of MHAs being damaged, as well.

Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans says she's been uncomfortable watching members she respects across the aisle being 'forced to defend' the report's findings. (CBC)

"Do they actually believe in us? Do they have respect for us? Is there any credibility? Because when we defend bad behaviour — when we defend things that's not defensible — we lose our credibility. And we all get tarred with the same brush."

That's a sentiment that was earlier voiced by NDP Leader Alison Coffin.

"We have sullied the reputations of all House of Assembly members," said Coffin on Wednesday morning. "This gets on all of us. This is very inappropriate."

While Mitchelmore's apology related to Foote's hiring is coming, the timing of it is still unclear.

However, both the Tories and NDP want further action taken. 

The deputy House Speaker dismissed that following a brief recess before noon, saying it exceeds the scope of the motion.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Anthony Germain, Ryan Cooke, Ariana Kelland and Stephanie Tobin


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