Education Minister Clyde Jackman wasn’t ready to apologize for allegedly bullying a schools advocate last week, after Liberal MHA Dale Kirby raised the issue in the House.
Kirby wanted to know how the government is responding to the accusation that Jackman acted in a disrespectful and bullying fashion during a confrontation in the Confederation Building lobby.
Education Minister Clyde Jackman. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
“Would you apologize if you felt you did nothing wrong?” Jackman told reporters. “I’ve been in government since 2003 and in my different roles I’ve met with different stakeholders representing various groups. They have their opinions and I have my opinions. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we disagree. In this particular case, we disagreed.”
Kirby described the situation differently during question period when he raised the matter.
“Clearly the fact that this person feels like they were bullied by a cabinet minister exposes that this government has not changed the way it operates,” he said in the legislature. “Mr. Speaker, given that bullying is one of the most serious issues faced by students — one too many students face and are victims of — and that the minister of education has been tasked by the premier to lead the charge against bullying, I ask the premier, do you still have confidence that a minister accused of bullying a person who represents the interests of students can still effectively lead your anti-bullying initiative?”
Premier Tom Marshall said that he’s asked his chief of staff to look into what happened, but he cautioned that an accusation is just that: an accusation.
“Bullying is assault. It’s an intent to cause fear in the other side, and as I said, it’s not something we should accept from anyone, you know, especially someone in a senior position like a minister of the crown,” Marshall told reporters after question period. “There may have been an apprehension of bullying, but that doesn’t mean it actually happened, or it was intended.”
Nathan Whalen, the president of the Federation of School councils, was the one on the receiving end of the bullying.
Whalen told the Telegram that the tense confrontation in the lobby of Confederation Building on budget day was just part of a pattern of behaviour on the part of Jackman.
“It’s intimidation or power tactics or, really, I felt it was intimidation combined with a lack of respect on more than one occasion,” he said. “The fact is that he was very disrespectful in his tone of voice and what he was saying to me.”
Whalen said that reacting to the budget, he gave it a failing grade because he felt that while it did get the ball rolling on full-day kindergarten, it didn’t do enough for current students.
Since the original incident took place, Jackman has met with Whalen — a meeting that Jackman described as “very cordial.”
And as luck would have it, the two men will be together again on Friday, because Jackman is scheduled to speak at the Federation of School Councils convention in Grand Falls-Windsor this weekend.
Nonetheless, Kirby said that Jackman needs to say he’s sorry.
“He should, in the least, apologize,” he said. “I’m very happy that the premier is being proactive in this area and is spearheading an investigation into what happened, but I would say again, I really think the solution to part of this is for the minister of education to apologize.”
Whalen said he feels that the relationship with the minister is on the mend, but he’d also like an apology.
“We are trying to work out those differences,” he said.