Dis­or­der in the House

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - EDITORIAL -

It was a long and ar­du­ous process for a mere 11 words of apol­ogy that don’t seem to have left any­one truly sat­is­fied. First, it was MHA Ed­die Joyce’s turn, late Tues­day: “I apol­o­gize.”

Heart­felt, it wasn’t.

Joyce had barely apol­o­gized be­fore he was stand­ing in the House of Assem­bly and essen­tially back­track­ing: “And I had to stand here tonight to apol­o­gize for some­thing I never did. I only did it be­cause I re­spect the House, by the way.”

Then, Wed­nes­day, it was MHA Dale Kirby’s turn: “I of­fer my apol­ogy to the House, Mr. Speaker.”

Both will now go through “in­di­vid­u­al­ized re­spect­ful work­place train­ing,” some­thing that, in Joyce’s case, led Tory Leader Ches Cros­bie to quip, “I sus­pect the gov­ern­ment is go­ing to have to of­fer premium pay for who­ever it is takes on train­ing in re­spect to the Mem­ber for Hum­ber— Bay of Is­lands.”

The two were found by Com­mis­sioner of Leg­isla­tive Stan­dards Bruce Chaulk to have vi­o­lated the Code of Con­duct for MHAS.

But what’s glar­ingly ob­vi­ous through all of the months of pre­par­ing re­ports, and the hours ded­i­cated to de­bate about them in the House of Assem­bly, is that the process is flawed.

Chances are, there is not one sin­gle per­son who is sat­is­fied with the way this has all played out: pri­vate de­tails about the con­flicts be­tween in­di­vid­ual politi­cians have been made pub­lic in the com­mis­sioner’s re­ports, and if that wasn’t enough, those same de­tails were then chewed over very pub­licly in the House of Assem­bly.

From the com­plainants right down to, yes, even Joyce and Kirby them­selves, there was mor­ti­fi­ca­tion at ev­ery turn; the de­tails that were re­leased about the com­plaints were the kind of thing that makes ev­ery­one in­volved the butt of pub­lic de­ri­sion.

This is, quite sim­ply, not how com­plaints about con­duct should be dealt with — and, in­ci­den­tally, isn’t the way they are dealt with in other work­places.

But ev­ery­one can learn from mis­takes.

All three party lead­ers in the House of Assem­bly seem to be in agree­ment that process has to change, and the Priv­i­leges and Elec­tions Com­mit­tee of the House is ex­pected to bring in a work­place ha­rass­ment pol­icy that will be de­signed specif­i­cally for the House.

That process, hope­fully, will ex­tend fur­ther than to what hap­pens be­hind closed cau­cus and cab­i­net doors. A change of cul­ture is clearly needed, and it has to ex­tend to ev­ery facet of the House.

There cer­tainly has to be a change in cul­ture. Any­one who at­tends ques­tion pe­riod and rec­og­nizes that it is a work­place would be hor­ri­fied by the con­duct that is deemed ac­cept­able there.

Some com­plain that the floor of the House is dif­fer­ent, that heck­ling, shout­ing and per­sonal abuse are part of the par­lia­men­tary tra­di­tion.

It’s still abuse, and it should end.

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