Sorry seems to be the hard­est word

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - EDITORIAL - Pam Framp­ton is a colum­nist whose work is pub­lished in The West­ern Star and The Tele­gram. Email pamela.framp­ton@thetele­gram.com. Twit­ter: pam_framp­ton

“Ev­ery­thing is chang­ing. Peo­ple are tak­ing their co­me­di­ans se­ri­ously and the politi­cians as a joke.” Will Rogers

Be­tween them, Ed­die Joyce and Dale Kirby ut­tered a hand­ful of words of con­tri­tion this week, none of them ac­knowl­edg­ing any­thing they might have done wrong.

Joyce and Kirby are the two mem­bers of the House of Assem­bly made to apol­o­gize for breach­ing the MHA Code of Con­duct.

It didn’t sound like they spent much time craft­ing their terse ex­pres­sions of re­gret.

There was no con­ces­sion that they had be­haved dis­re­spect­fully, no words of apol­ogy for the col­leagues who had com­plained about them. Cer­tainly no signs of re­morse.

Now they’ll un­dergo work­place sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing. Se­ri­ously?

You have to ask what it says about the tenor of pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics when elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives have to be trained in eth­i­cal be­hav­iour.

No, you can­not pres­sure an­other MHA to give your friend a job, par­tic­u­larly a friend who doesn’t even qual­ify for an in­ter­view through the le­git­i­mate hir­ing process.

No, you can’t sug­gest to a col­league that they should put their con­vic­tions about an is­sue aside and toe the party line, or else get out of the cau­cus. They have to be taught this? Maybe they need some sort of hand­book that ex­plic­itly sets out what is and is not ap­pro­pri­ate.

But wait — there is such a guide: the Mem­bers’ Hand­book, and my guess is that when it says one of the roles of an MHA is to “act as spokesper­sons for their con­stituents and help to solve prob­lems,” the prob­lems in ques­tion don’t in­clude help­ing their buddy get a pub­lic ser­vice job.

Maybe Joyce and Kirby only skimmed th­ese sec­tions: “We will per­form our du­ties hon­estly, faith­fully, eth­i­cally, im­par­tially and ef­fi­ciently, re­spect­ing the rights of the pub­lic and our col­leagues. We will re­frain from con­duct that might im­pair our ef­fec­tive­ness or that would com­pro­mise our in­tegrity.”

And: “We will treat col­leagues, Mem­bers and the pub­lic with cour­tesy and re­spect.”

There are days when I de­spair of po­lit­i­cal evo­lu­tion ever hap­pen­ing here.

It oc­curred to me this week, af­ter MHAS de­bated their col­leagues’ pun­ish­ment for hours, that it’s not just the politi­cians who are be­ing short­changed by a process that sees al­le­ga­tions leaked to the pub­lic and ac­cu­sa­tions bandied about in the House be­fore in­ves­ti­ga­tions have even be­gun.

It’s the gen­eral pub­lic who are the big­gest losers.

We take the time to go to the bal­lot box and vote for peo­ple we hope will work dili­gently and look out for our best in­ter­ests. In­stead, among the many well-in­ten­tioned MHAS who take their seats in the House, there are in­vari­ably some old­school back-slap­pers for whom pa­tron­age is still par for the course, and some pumped-upon-power-types who think they can sway any­one they view as less as­sertive; just enough of th­ese two types to tar­nish other MHAS’ pro­fes­sion­al­ism and in­crease pub­lic cyn­i­cism.

And then, when some­one has the good sense to call out bad be­hav­iour, we’re treated to hours of pub­lic de­bate on the tax­pay­ers’ dime, as the econ­omy crum­bles and the mer­cury drops and peo­ple live in dread of their elec­tri­cal bills.

I’ll give Dale Kirby credit for one thing: at least he had the good sense not to care­lessly toss around words like “lynch­ing,” or liken his treat­ment to that of some­one suf­fer­ing un­der bar­barous con­di­tions in Syria, as Ed­die Joyce did.

“It’s just like Syria —,” Joyce said, “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.”

To com­pare what’s hap­pened to him as he sits in the warm, safe leg­isla­tive cham­ber and col­lects a gen­er­ous pen­sion, while Syr­i­ans are lit­er­ally flee­ing for their lives amid bomb­ings and other vi­o­lence speaks for it­self.

Here’s a sug­ges­tion for who­ever’s lin­ing up the sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing. Why not throw in a few free his­tory les­sons for Joyce while you’re at it.

Pam Framp­ton

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