Nfld. & Labrador

Liberal caucus holds rare Sunday meeting in wake of Joyce allegations

After a chaotic week that saw MHA Eddie Joyce removed from cabinet and then caucus, Liberal MHAs met behind closed doors at Confederation Building.

Premier not available for comment after 'very honest and frank discussion'

Liberal caucus chair and Bonavista MHA Neil King says the rare Sunday meeting was a chance for members to have their concerns heard. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

After a chaotic week fuelled by harassment allegations that ultimately saw MHA Eddie Joyce removed from cabinet and kicked out of caucus, Liberal MHAs gathered for a rare Sunday caucus meeting at Confederation Building.

They were called to the unusual meeting on Saturday by caucus chair Neil King, and the closed-door session lasted nearly two hours.

Among the main topics of discussion: how the party will respond to future harassment concerns.

"We want to make sure that it gets investigated, that we put the procedures in place so people feel confident that they can come into the workplace and do their job properly without fear of bullying or harassment or anything else," said King.

He said party members resolved to ask that the province update the code of conduct for all MHAs. 

Productive meeting, says King

Last week, Service N.L. Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh was outed as the complainant against Eddie Joyce without her consent, but King said he believes the party is still a safe place for anonymous complaints to be taken seriously.

"Yes it is. As of Friday, the person who identified the complainant is now sitting as an independent pending an investigation from an external source," said King.  

The meeting was held at Confederation Building on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

A Liberal caucus member previously told CBC that caucus meetings were a "joke" because people rarely spoke out about their concerns for fear of consequences.

"They certainly didn't have that problem tonight," said King.

"It was a very honest and frank discussion. That's all I can say. The purpose of caucus is you can go in and say what you want without reprisal. There was a lot of good conversation this evening, that's all I can say."

Optimistic party will be on same page

He added that no other complaints of harassment or bullying about Joyce came out during the meeting.

After a week when it seemed like Liberal MHAs weren't always on the same page — as evidenced by an email sent by Education Minister Dale Kirby asking those responsible for leaks to the Progressive Conservatives to step forward — King said he hopes this meeting serves to unify the party.

"It was very constructive. I look forward to our next meeting," he said.

MHA Eddie Joyce has denied the allegations against him. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Premier Dwight Ball attended the meeting but was not available for comment.

By late Sunday evening, requests sent to his communication staff by e-mail and phone had gone unanswered.

About the Author

Andrew Sampson is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.

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