News flash: Th­ese are not ‘the good-old days’

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - OPINION - Lana Payne is the At­lantic di­rec­tor for Uni­for. She can be reached by email at lana­pay­nenl@gmail.com. Twit­ter: @lanam­payne Her col­umn re­turns in two weeks

Hell hath no fury like a priv­i­leged male scorned.

Case in point: the New­found­land and Labrador House of Assem­bly.

On rare days, some things get done there, but for the most part it is so painful to watch. Dys­func­tional is per­haps the best we can say about it. Toxic could also work.

I sup­pose the sil­ver lin­ing if you’re Dwight Ball is you’re not On­tario Pre­mier Doug Ford or fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer this week, but re­ally if that’s the best you can say, it’s not good.

Pol­i­tics has al­ways been a messy busi­ness, as it is nat­u­rally ad­ver­sar­ial. That doesn’t mean bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment are ac­cept­able be­hav­iours. Healthy de­bate and dis­course can and should be done with­out ei­ther.

No doubt we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a bit of a wa­ter­shed mo­ment in pol­i­tics. And it may get messier be­fore it gets bet­ter. But the tol­er­ance for be­hav­iours that were long-tol­er­ated and hid­den from pub­lic view are no longer be­ing ac­cepted. And their ex­po­sure is shak­ing po­lit­i­cal foun­da­tions.

Brave women in pol­i­tics are push­ing back against sex­ism, ha­rass­ment, bul­ly­ing and goodold boys who think it is still the good-old days. News flash: it’s not.

Sherry Gam­bin-walsh is one such woman.

She must have felt in­tense pres­sure to stop speak­ing out, in­clud­ing her re­marks this week in which she noted sim­ply that Ed­die Joyce’s apol­ogy was not that apolo­getic.

It wasn’t an apol­ogy at all. When you say the words in­side the Leg­is­la­ture and then ba­si­cally take them back right away out­side the House of Assem­bly, it’s not an apol­ogy. In­deed, Joyce went on to say he had noth­ing to apol­o­gize for.

Not once have we wit­nessed a re­flec­tive mo­ment from ei­ther Joyce or Dale Kirby, the two Lib­er­als MHAS who came un­der scrutiny in in­ves­ti­ga­tions this past year.

I keep think­ing that it must have been in­cred­i­bly un­com­fort­able and iso­lat­ing for Gam­bin-walsh in cau­cus. I sus­pect she ex­pe­ri­enced and may still ex­pe­ri­ence iso­la­tion as this is too-of­ten the usual re­sponse to women who refuse to shut up.

A friend of mine at­tended a gov­ern­ment event within the last year in which Gam­bin­walsh was also present. The de­tails are not im­por­tant. What is: she was not rec­og­nized in the room by her col­leagues mak­ing the an­nounce­ment. It was ob­vi­ous to many.

Th­ese kinds of iso­lat­ing be­hav­iours are bul­ly­ing, plain and sim­ple.

And yet she per­sisted. And we should thank her for it.

What’s also be­come clear through the com­plaints of ha­rass­ment that have gripped the New­found­land and Labrador leg­is­la­ture is the lack of un­der­stand­ing among too many elected of­fi­cials about what con­sti­tutes ha­rass­ment and bul­ly­ing.

Joyce had said: “It’s just like Syria — some­one don’t like you? Let’s leak it to some­body, get your name out there. Once your name is out there, they’ll drag you out and flog you, who cares.”

For the record, no Ed­die Joyce what you have ex­pe­ri­enced is noth­ing like what the peo­ple in war-torn Syria are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and you should be ashamed to even make such a ter­ri­ble com­par­i­son.

Here’s an idea. Usu­ally when there are work­place ha­rass­ment com­plaints and in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the in­ves­ti­ga­tor ex­am­ines the spe­cific com­plaint, but also looks to see if there is a sys­temic prob­lem in that work­place.

None of us need to read a re­port from the in­ves­ti­ga­tor to un­der­stand there are sys­temic sex­ist prob­lems in the po­lit­i­cal work­place. We see it.

There­fore, anti-ha­rass­ment and re­spect­ful work­place train­ing should be manda­tory for all MHAS. The Leg­is­la­ture should also pass an all-party res­o­lu­tion to have an as­sess­ment done of their work­place.

Also hav­ing a clearly un­der­stood, safe, proper com­plaints and in­ves­ti­ga­tion process is crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing a re­spect­ful work­place. We haven’t re­ally seen that yet ei­ther.

We need our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to take po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. The prov­ince is fac­ing press­ing prob­lems. We need more re­sources for im­mi­gra­tion to achieve more ro­bust im­mi­gra­tion tar­gets. We also need a cli­mate and a jobs plan. Th­ese things should go hand in hand.

But th­ese big is­sues re­quire mean­ing­ful, rig­or­ous de­bate. They re­quire po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship.

And we haven’t see much of ei­ther lately.

Lana Payne

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