How many members of the House of Assembly have talked to Tory Leader Ches Crosbie about joining his party?
“More than one,” he said.
After Day 1 of discussing five reports from Commissioner for Legislative Standards Bruce Chaulk, it’s evident changes are coming to who sits where in the House of Assembly.
Crosbie, after his first day as Leader of the Opposition, declined to get into further detail on exactly who he’s in discussions with, but it’s possible the Tory bench could grow in the coming weeks.
NDP Leader Gerry Rogers says she hasn’t yet had direct conversations about potential defections to the third-party bench.
Premier Dwight Ball didn’t offer direct comment on the prospect of defections.
“People are free to run on political ballots wherever they are, but at the end of the day it’s the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in the districts they represent who will have the final say,” Ball said.
He also didn’t deny rumours of an imminent cabinet shuffle.
“I believe we have a lot to pick from right now that could be future cabinet members. We will put in place a cabinet that can do the work that’s required right now,” Ball said.
No timelines were given for any shuffle.
Kirby the target
At the beginning of Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Assembly, Crosbie stood on a point of privilege, asking that Mount Scio MHA Dale Kirby be investigated for leaking the harassment reports in advance of Tuesday’s sitting.
Kirby didn’t deny the charges in the House, but tried to pass the buck to Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway, who Kirby alleges was the source of the first leak.
Kirby referenced a CBC article from late August, where Holloway is quoted as having handed over the reports.
What Kirby neglected to mention is that the original leaks came in late May. Holloway denies being the source of any leak. When asked about the original leak in May, Kirby declined to confirm or deny he was the original leak.
Kirby also neglected to mention that the late August article where Holloway passed over the reports was done with the permission of Chaulk, according to the article’s author, CBC’s Ryan Cooke.
Crosbie presented a motion to have Kirby’s conduct investigated by the Privileges and Elections Committee to determine what wrongdoing occurred.
“We need to have a look at and consider any sanctions for his conduct in releasing and leaking these reports in violation of House procedure, which exists to safeguard people’s rights. That’s, in our view, a serious offence,” said Crosbie.
Crosbie didn’t move for full expulsion right away, in the name of due process.
“Let’s first decide if he’s guilty of a breach of privilege, then we’ll decide the appropriate penalty,” said Crosbie.
Rogers says there’s no question Kirby broke the rules and should face punishment.
“I think Dale Kirby really violated the process and we can’t accept that. We’re going to have to deal with that and I’m not quite sure how we will deal with that,” said Rogers.
“If we don’t have a process that we can follow, it really affects whether we can attain fairness and justice for both respondents and complainants, who have really risked a lot in coming forward.”
Ball says he wished Kirby had followed the rules.
“My preference would have been to follow the process that was outlined and get those reports to the House Management Commission,” said Ball.
“We want to improve the House of Assembly. I said many times there’s zero tolerance.”
Ball was asked directly if there’s any way Kirby or Joyce will rejoin the Liberal caucus. He didn’t make a commitment.
“We’re going to let the debate unfold. There’s a process that we have established – it’s been flawed, there’s no doubt getting from April to October, there’s been a lot of flaws,” said Ball.
“We will learn from this process to bring improvements.”
With Topsail-Paradise MHA Paul Davis’s resignation coming into effect on Nov. 5, and the potential for another two byelections, Crosbie says he supports a snap election.
“Facing that rather large number of byelections in a 40-person House does raise that kind of question,” he said.
But Rogers and Ball aren’t playing the same tune.
“We have fixed election dates in our province right now. That’s not something I’m thinking of right now,” said Ball.
For Rogers, the focus now is undoing the damage done to public confidence in the House of Assembly in the face of the harassment allegations levelled against Kirby and Joyce. No matter what the outcome, Rogers says, there’s lots of work left to do to rebuild public trust.
“Politics, really, is about how we live together. How we manage our resources, how we plan our future together,” she said.
“People elect us with the belief that every decision that we make in that House of Assembly or throughout our work is in the best interest of the people. I believe that this really affects people’s confidence in the political process. We have a lot of mending to do.”