Disorder in the House
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.