NDP edged out in legislative cash squeeze play
Liberals get cash first recommended for them by consultant's report in 2008
Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberals won a battle for more legislative cash on Wednesday, but possibly at the expense of the New Democrats.
It was a reversal of 2008, when Tory members of the House of Assembly Management Commission accepted all the recommendations of a consultant's report — including advice to give themselves and the NDP more money — except one. The one rejected recommendation would have seen more cash funnelled to the Liberals.
On Wednesday, the Liberals got the $150,000 cash infusion originally recommended for them in 2008, but voted down at the time by the Tories. The Liberals can use the money to pay caucus staff.
But instead of simply approving the one recommendation they rejected in 2008, the Tories insisted on voting to accept the entire consultant's report all over again.
Since 2008, the NDP caucus has grown to five MHAs from just one. NDP Leader Lorraine Michael is seeking roughly $60,000 more to bring salary levels for her chief of staff and director of communications in line with similar positions within government.
The consultant's report was completed before the NDP's big election gains, and had no provision for any such increases. That effectively killed Michael's request.
After the meeting, Michael accused Government House Leader Jerome Kennedy and other Tories of engineering the result by forcing the Liberals to endorse a motion tied to their own increase.
'Divide and conquer'
"To me it was a divide and conquer tactic by them," Michael told reporters outside the legislature.
"For Mr. Kennedy to so innocently say he rejected [the NDP bid] by using the word game-playing, I say back to him that it's quite obvious to anyone who was watching that a game was being played by the government to divide and conquer."
Michael said she could not vote for the motion as it was put to the commission.
"The motion itself was not an honest motion," she said.
But Kennedy insisted everything was being done above board.
"There's no one playing games here," he told other commission members.
Michael had told fellow commission members that the party's staff was "completely overloaded" by a dramatically-increased workload.
Kennedy fought Michael at the meeting, in effect forcing the Liberals to adopt the entire earlier report or risk losing their own increase. The Liberals supported extra cash for the NDP, too.
When Michael made a second request to the commission for more funding, Speaker Ross Wiseman said the commission was bound by the 2008 report that it had passed only minutes before.
Michael said the NDP deserves more resources, given that their caucus is just one seat smaller than the Liberals.
She also asked for a new position of third-party house leader to be created. But doing so would require an amendment to legislation introduced in the wake of the Green Report five years ago.
The Speaker broke a 3-3 tie along party lines in favour of that request, sending it to cabinet for consideration.