Saturday, August 16, 2014
Monday, August 04, 2014
Effect v. Cause
Cory Hurley reports for today's Western Star:
Paul Davis, Steve Kent or John Ottenheimer will assume the role as leader after the Sept. 13 election at the party convention.
Depending on what the leader, and future premier asks of him, Marshall will then step down as premier.
"It's on the weekend, so it could be right then ... a day after ... a week after," Marshall said. "I'm not sure. It will be whatever the next leader wants or asks."
As with [sic] his seat in the House," Marshall said he will resign when the new premier chooses to call a byelection.Um....
As the Progressive Conservatives have shown repeatedly over the past decade, election law is not their strong suit. Marshall has it exactly backwards: Premier Kent/Ottenheimer/Davis can't call a by-election in Humber East unless and until Marshall vacates his seat. You can't call a by-election for a district which still has a sitting member.
Labels: by-election fever
Monday, July 21, 2014
A little refresher for Steve Kent, from the marathon House of Assembly sitting of December 18-19, 2012. Here are the 5000 or so words he spoke to Bill 61; emphasis added:
I just need to make a few comments in speaking to Bill 61 now that we are in Committee. I think it is an appropriate time to remind members about Bill 61.
I love Canada. I have travelled in Canada. I have not been to Iceland. I hope to get there some day. In certain places in Canada there are hot springs. Have any of you been to Banff?
Filibustering is wonderful, it is fine. We can do it until the cows come home; however, we should at least talk about the legislation that is before us.
Perhaps in the next little while we will hear a few more stories about travels to Iceland, dips in the hot springs, perhaps even Doc McStuffins. I hope we will soon talk about Bill 61 and the legislation that we are here to actually debate.
I thought it was important to rise once again to speak actually to Bill 61 and the clauses that we are here to debate, and to provide some clarity on that particular issue. I hope, given the amount of time we have spent on clause 1 and considering much of the debate has not even addressed clause 1, that we are going to get to a point really soon – especially given the positive spirit that seems to exist in the House this morning; maybe it is the Christmas spirit that is getting to people.
Nalcor, since its inception, has been incredibly prudent. They have been incredibly cautious in managing the project and its financing, and this has been proven by a number of external studies. It has been proven by independent studies by Manitoba Hydro International. It has been proven by studies by Navigant, and other consultants as well as we have moved through the decision gate process. We are really confident in Nalcor's record. We are proud of the careful management they have exhibited and we are pretty sure that this kind of success is in fact going to go continue.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Steve Kent, Reformer
Having been a proud member of a governing caucus that has brought an already dismal legislature to new lows, but now enjoying the clarity that comes with facing electoral oblivion in the morning, PC leadership candidate Steve Kent is now musing about vaguely-specified "reforms" to the House of Assembly, including Question Period.
(There's also a delicious promise to institute a functional committee system — the same idea that PC winged monkeys ridiculed without mercy when an opposition party had the temerity to propose such a foreign concept.)
It's not too hard to figure out how the Tory mind works. Former Premier frothed about the very existence of Access to Information, and lo and behold, a sham "review" of the Access to Information Act later, there was Bill 29.
And what seems to have young Mr. Kent, Reformer, inclined to believe Question Period needs "reform"?
It would appear to be the fact that the nefarious opposition can ask more than one question about a Thing:
MR. KENT: It is a simple question and I will give him a very simple answer, as I just did previously, if he was paying attention. (November 18, 2013)
MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, it should not come as any surprise to anybody in this House that we are only a few days into a new session of the House of Assembly and the Liberals are already recycling questions.
I answered the member's question last week related to that request for information about marketing and advertising. (March 20, 2014)
MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, it is rather unfortunate that we have only been in the House a couple of weeks and I think this is the third, if not the fourth, time that the member opposite has asked me the same question. (March 25, 2014)
MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. They are clearly not interested in listening, which is not much surprise. They were not interested in the answers to the first questions this afternoon; they are not interested in these ones either. (ibid.)
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Private to Lynn Hammond
For the benefit of Lynn Hammond, here's a chart showing the relative change in the size of the provincial public sector (sum of direct civil service, health care system, and education system employment; crown corporations not included), and change in the provincial population, 2002-2014.
Figures are an annualized 12-month (employment) or 4-quarter (population) average, indexed to 2002 = 100.
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
Panic on the streets of Gambo
CRA got scooped on today's release of its NLpoli fieldwork for the month of May.
Here is what the notional-projection electoral map would look like in a general election where today's CRA vote-intent figures reflected actual popular support across the province. Dark colours indicate holds. Light red indicates notional Liberal pickups, while light blue indicates narrow PC holds. Notionally NDP seats (see below) are yellowy-orange. Grey indicates districts where the forecast models are in disagreement about the notional outcome. (Click to enlarge.)
The Liberals would take a minimum of 29 notional seats, and would be in contention in another nine being "tossup" districts where the seat-forecasting models are in disagreement with one another. Even without winning a single tossup seat, this is a solid majority of the House of Assembly's 48 chairs.
For the incumbent PCs, increasingly torn between pollyannatastic denial and desperation, if their Twitter feeds are anything to go on, only five districts would remain in their notional win column, though they would be in contention in the nine previously-mentioned "tossups". But even if all the tossup seats tilted Tory, the governing party would be reduced to an opposition of fourteen members, with only two MHAs west of Harbour Main... and that, assuming that the PC candidate who succeeds Tom Marshall in Humber East holds the seat for the Blue Team. If the Tories fail to win even half the tossup seats, the opposition Liberals would win a commanding majority government of thirty-something members.
The NDP would notionally hold five seats, the same number, though distributed differently, that they won on election night in 2011. However, one of those is St. John's North, where the incumbent MHA, having one for the orange team, just this week won re-nomination as a relatively newly-minted Liberal.
In fact — and this is a major caveat — across the board, the notional model does not take into account changes in affiliation since the last election. These districts are marked with asterixes. There have been quite a few:
- In St. John's South, former PC Tom Osborne, after an interlude in self-imposed exile as an Independent member, is now a Liberal.
- In Mount Pearl South, former PC Paul Lane has also donned a red uniform.
- In St. John's North, as previously noted, former NDP MHA Dale Kirby will re-offer, this time as the newly-nominated Liberal candidate in the 2015 (14? 16?) general election.
- In The Straits and White Bay North, former NDP MHA Chris Mitchelmore is a contestant in next week's Liberal nomination in that district.
- In Virginia Waters, Liberal Cathy Bennett now holds the seat following the by-election to succeed former Premier Dunderdale.
- In Carbonear–Harbour Grace, Liberal Sam Slade carried in last fall's by-election what was in 2011 the second-Toriest district in the province.
- In Cartwright–L'anse au Clair, a purely academic change saw Liberal Lisa Dempster succeed Liberal Yvonne Jones.
As with all poll projections, the overall seat-count result tends to be more accurate than the district-by-district count when the models are tested post-election. The errors in individual district forecasts tend to cancel one another out in the overall composition of the notionally-projected legislature.
Labels: pretty maps
Friday, May 16, 2014
From the memory hole... thirteen years ago today.
ST. JOHN'S, May 16, 2001 — Following is the Private Member's Resolution put forward in the House of Assembly today by Opposition Leader Ed Byrne. Government members voted down the resolution.
WHEREAS the current Premier ascended to that post by being elected leader of his Party on February 3, 2001 by 638 delegates to his Party's leadership convention;
AND WHEREAS it is reasonable and proper to demand that a new Premier overseeing a new administration, unless merely filling a caretaker role in continuation of the mandate of his predecessor, should move swiftly to seek a new mandate directly from the people, whom the Premier presumes to govern;
AND WHEREAS on every other occasion in this province when there has been a change in leadership of the governing Party, a general election has followed within 100 days;*
AND WHEREAS the current Premier, during the first 100 days of his administration, has stated and demonstrated his desire to take his administration in policy directions that deviate significantly from those of his predecessor;
AND WHEREAS on the bulk water export issue in particular, the current Premier has stated publicly he now prefers to pursue a policy that defies not only the policy but indeed the legislation that was drafted, passed unanimously and enacted under the administration of his predecessor, with the current Premier's support at the time, and that is now the law of the province;
AND WHEREAS on the Voisey's Bay development issue in particular, the current Premier has articulated a position on the export of nickel ore prior to finished processing that explicitly defies the position that was published and provided to voters in the Liberal Party's 1999 election ‘red book', on the basis of which the voters of the province gave the current Premier's predecessor his mandate;
AND WHEREAS at least two prominent Members of the Cabinet of the current Premier's predecessor have, publicly and repeatedly, expressed grave concern and opposition with respect to the approach of the current Premier on the Voisey's Bay development issue;
AND WHEREAS the current Premier has stated in this House that he is willing to sign a binding contract on Voisey's Bay development without first bringing it directly to the people of the province and their elected representatives in the House of Assembly for scrutiny and approval, thereby shackling the people of the province to a deal on which they have had no input;
AND WHEREAS the current Premier has failed to articulate a strategic plan for the province's fishing industry as a principal means of fostering the economic development that rural Newfoundland and Labrador desperately needs;
AND WHEREAS numerous other significant public policy issues with enormous long-term implications for Newfoundland and Labrador and its people – including energy supply, Churchill Falls development, oil and gas development, forest management, infrastructure management, federal-provincial agreements and others – are now before the provincial government for decisions, yet the people of the province have been given no clear articulation and no direct opportunity to approve or disapprove of the direction the current Premier intends to take on these vital issues;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this Honourable House urge the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador to promptly ask His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the General Assembly and to issue a writ of general election.
Ed Byrne, MHA Kilbride
* Note: In this province, there have been four changes of leadership in a governing party. In the case of three of those, a general election followed within 100 days. Brian Peckford succeeded Frank Moores as Party Leader on March 17, 1979 and as Premier on March 26, 1979, and a general election was held on June 18, 1979. Tom Rideout succeeded Brian Peckford as Party Leader on March 11, 1989 and as Premier on March 22, 1989, and a general election was held April 20, 1989. Brian Tobin succeeded Clyde Wells as Party Leader on January 17, 1996 and as Premier on January 26, 1996, and a general election was held on February 22, 1996. Roger Grimes succeeded Brian Tobin as Party Leader on February 3, 2001 and as Premier on February 13, 2001.
Labels: memory hole
Monday, May 12, 2014
Sign o' the times
The Telegram's intrepid boy-reporter @TelegramJames captured this list of donors/attendees at the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador fundraising dinner tonight (click to enlarge):
I Here's who's paying a ridiculous amount of money to eat dinner with the Liberals. #nlpoli pic.twitter.com/L2Nr8juGJiThe corporate donors listed, or their predecessor companies or subsidiaries, have contributed a total of nearly $1.2-million to the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador or its candidates since calendar year 2004 — the first full year that the moribund PC regime was in power — to 2012, the most recent year for which Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has published data. (Some donor data for 2011 may or may not be missing; the sheer incompetence of Elections NL makes it impossible to say for certain.)
— James McLeod (@TelegramJames) May 12, 2014
Over the same period, the same set of donors have collectively given approximately $288,000 to the opposition Liberals. (They have contributed just over $4,000 to the NDP and $400 to Labrador Party candidates.)
That history is summarized in this cleverly colour-coded chart:
Not only have these donors been more generous to the incumbent PCs in the aggregate, their individual donations have also heavily favoured the Tories: 630 individual contributions to the PC Party or candidates have averaged $1904 a pop, compared to 274 contributions averaging $1047 to Liberals... an amount inflated slightly by the inclusion of 14 contributions to Dwight Ball's leadership campaign, disclosed voluntarily outside the operation of the Elections Act.
It is especially fascinating to observe, on a very close reading, the number of donors who, since 2004, did not give a single red copper to any party other than the governing, moribund, Progressive Conservatives.
Friday, May 02, 2014
Counting is hard
On April 7th, there was a provincial general election in Quebec.
Quebecers collectively cast 4,232,262 valid ballots in 18,658 polling stations (plus special and advance polls) across 125 provincial electoral districts.
Just 25 days later, the Quebec electoral office has published the detailed poll-by-poll breakdown of the election results, and in machine-readable .csv format.
In the Former Republic of Dannystan, the provincial elections act gives the Chief Electoral Officer nine months to publish a "book" of detailed poll-by-poll election results. And you bet your sweet bippy, the Chief Electoral Office takes every single one of those nine months before "publishing" those results by depositing a copy at the legislative library, then, some days later, after prodding, posting the document on-line, in the form of a bloated, non-manipulatable PDF.
This same pattern of extreme hesitancy to publish election results has obtained for decades in the FRD, even as every other electoral agency in the country has moved towards quicker and quicker publishing of election results, and in formats that lend themselves to GIS and other data applications.
By way of comparison, in the 2011 election, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians collectively cast 222,842 valid ballots in 1563 polling stations across 48 provincial electoral districts. The task of tallying the 2011 NL provincial election was equal to tallying about 6.5 Quebec electoral districts in 2014.
There is something fundamentally wrong with Elections Newfoundland and Labrador. Fundamentally, profoundly, inexplicably wrong.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
A year ago right now, the following disgraceful episode occurred in the House of Assembly.
A week later, the gormless Speaker ruled his own ruling to be wrong, and apologized to the Hon. Member for St. John's Centre.
Doctor Darin King has still not done so.
MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise today in the House on a matter of great importance, on a point of privilege. I am aware, Mr. Speaker, according to O'Brien and Bosc, page 141, that any time a member wants to raise a point of privilege before this House that he or she ought to do so at the earliest point in time. The issue that I am going to speak to today just became aware to me this morning, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the point of privilege that I want to speak to is indeed very serious. It is perhaps, in my tenure in this House, one of the most serious points of privilege that I have ever seen. I want to reference a couple of quotes to give it some context, Mr. Speaker.
In addressing a matter of privilege, in the section entitled Freedom from Obstruction, Interference, Intimidation and Molestation in Bosc and O'Brien, they state very clearly, "Members are entitled to go about their parliamentary business undisturbed. The assaulting, menacing, or insulting of any Member on the floor of the House or while he is coming or going to or from the House, or on account of his behaviour during a proceeding of Parliament, is a violation of the rights of Parliament. Any form of intimidation … of a person for or on account of his behaviour during a proceeding in Parliament could amount to contempt.
Mr. Speaker, my comments are reflected in a point of privilege which I suggest to you, and I hope to prove to you, constitute a point of privilege and/or contempt of this Parliament.
Further, Mr. Speaker, speakers in many Houses of Commons and other provincial Legislatures and elsewhere "have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its Members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference." One speaker in 1973 ruled that he had "no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation".
"If an Hon. Member is impeded or obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties through threats, intimidation, bribery attempts or other improper behaviour, such a case would fall within the limits of parliamentary privilege. Should an Hon. Member be able to say that something has happened which prevented him or her from performing functions, that he or she has been threatened, intimidated, or in any way unduly influenced, there will be a case for the Chair to consider."
Mr. Speaker, all of us recognize in this House, serving as an MHA in the provincial government, in any government, in fact, but certainly in the provincial government, has good times and bad times. We recognize that. There is at least one member opposite who can attest to that, I am sure, having served in government. We recognize that.
There are times over the course of a government when things are going well and you enjoy a lot of good political life. There are other times when there are challenges. We know that when we run for public office we expect to encounter that roller coaster ride as politicians, but in spite of that, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the people of the Province have an expectation of the behaviour of the people that they elect to sit in the chairs, in the seats in this House. Their expectation is a little higher for us than it is for many members of the public. I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that there have been many instances, not only inside this Chamber but outside the Chamber, where the public has demonstrated that they have a high expectation level for their politicians, and that there are limits.
What I am going to talk about today I believe passes the limit of expectation for the people of the Province and passes the limit of acceptability in this House. We have been very fortunate in Newfoundland and Labrador for a long time, Mr. Speaker.
We reflect on the bombing yesterday in Boston, for example. We see lots of incidents of that all around the world, civil disobedience. We, fortunately, do not have to be exposed to that. There are events in Britain today with the death and the funeral of Margaret Thatcher and some of the non-supporters of Margaret Thatcher, Mr. Speaker. Of course, there has been the bullying and intimidation, and mass murders that we have seen down in the United States over the last number of years.
All of that, Mr. Speaker, are events for the most part that our Province, our democracy, and our governments have been somewhat oblivious to. It is a behaviour that I do not think for one minute that anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador would ever condone, or any actions in particular that would lead to that kind of behaviour, Mr. Speaker; more importantly, which is what I am talking about today, actions that might lead to some kind of illegal or immoral behaviour. I do not believe for a minute that the people of the Province who are here in this gallery or who are watching at home would for one minute condone or accept that type of behaviour.
We also have seen in Newfoundland over the last short period of time, Mr. Speaker, that the political environment has shifted. We all recognize that it has become somewhat testy, and we understand that. It has been a very tough Budget. There have been a lot of expectations placed on government. A lot of critical decisions had to be made by members on this side of the House and by the Premier of the Province as the leader of the government.
We understand that, Mr. Speaker. We also understand that the brunt of the criticism, while we all share it to one level or another, has been levelled at the Premier. The Premier, like all other members of this House, I believe, expects as a leader of the government that is going to happen from time to time.
Mr. Speaker, what we have seen over the last three or four weeks, perhaps, in particular, is a shift in the way that people are starting to express their views and even in some of the actions that we are seeing throughout the Province. For information of the House, there are currently two interlinked Web sites published on Facebook expressing in what I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, to be the most vile and contemptible language that I have ever seen personally: the desire of protestors to not only intimidate and obstruct government, but indeed to assassinate the Premier.
I want to read for the record into Hansard one of the comments that have been posted. I do this, and I suggest to people that the language is not the best, but upon advice I have been told I ought to read in for the record so that this House is fully aware. There is an individual going by the name of Adam Maher. I have no idea whether this is a real or fictitious name, but the following was posted. As I said, I warn you that the language is strong, "ur crazy shes the most useless premier we ever had i can't believe no body..." – I am going to use letters and say ‘jfk'd' her. I think members can figure out what it is. I prefer not to read those three words into the record, Mr. Speaker. "…i can't believe no body jfk'd her already n sniped her out cuz the whole province is gone to shit cause of that woman".
There are several others there, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read to illustrate. One of the most recent comments we have found was the Premier was called a "terrorist" – and the terrorist comments were linked to the events in Boston yesterday, posted today, linking the Premier as a "terrorist" to the Boston activities yesterday.
I say again, I cannot believe at all that anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador condones that type of activity or that type of language to be describing the leader of the government – in spite of whether you like the decisions this government is making or not – I cannot believe that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would condone that, and I will never believe that. I do not believe this House ought to condone those activities either, Mr. Speaker, but I want to move on because there are a few other things that I do want to say to you.
Some of those postings, Mr. Speakers, while I just became aware of that today, people who have advised me about it tell me that there were many other stronger ones, and I do have a list here. I will not read all of them, but many of them have been purged, Mr. Speaker. They were posted long enough to show people who were members of the group, what the group stood for, what the group represented.
I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that if people have the courage to post those comments in a public forum like Facebook, with such vile and direct and obscene language, then one, as I am advised as the Justice Minister, one has no alternative but to consider those as threats and to consider that what is said in the comments ought to be taken very seriously, Mr. Speaker. As Justice Minister, I, of course, deal with the police on a regular basis, and I am advised that you do not take any of those things for granted. You assume that they are valid comments and valid threats.
Together, Mr. Speaker, I reference those particular comments. These Facebook sites – there are two linked together – are calling for a protest here at Confederation Building on Friday. Now, a protest at Confederation Building in and of itself would not seem out of the norm. We have seen lots of them over the years on any number of events.
The key here, though, Mr. Speaker, is some of the threatening comments. In particular, the comments directed at the life of the Premier in particular. The person who made those comments is also involved in both particular groups and providing leadership to both particular groups, and they are supported by other participants. Mr. Speaker, the Facebook site has a membership list, which is bringing me to the point I want to make.
There is a membership list. In order to be a part of this group, in order to support this group and to tell people of Facebook and the world that you believe the things that are posted on this group and that you are prepared to stay a part of this group because you think the things that are being said there on this site ought to be done – and people who are part of Facebook or social media would understand. I do not need to explain all of this. That is how Facebook works. You join a group, generally, like you do in the public, Mr. Speaker, because you support the values and you support the objectives of the group and you support what the people of the group are doing.
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, there are many prominent people who are members of that group. Alan Moulton, a leader with the FFAW, for example, is a part of it, one of the leaders of the FFAW. There are many others. There is also, Mr. Speaker, a member of this House of Assembly who is a member of that group. I believe that that constitutes a point of privilege in no uncertain terms.
In this Province, Mr. Speaker, we have seen a months-long orchestrated campaign now by public sector unions in our Province to try and encourage government to take a certain path, a certain direction with respect to the financial priorities of the government, the future of the Province and the budgetary decisions in particular, and to try and knock us off course. We accept that. That is part of what happens in political life. It is part of trying to influence and develop social policy.
To see the kind of rhetoric that we are seeing on these Web sites, Mr. Speaker, over the last number of days, threats to the life of the Premier, threats to burn down the Premier's home. By the very nature of the comments, Mr. Speaker, the Premier of the Province, who I submit to you, is like most other people here. She happens to be a mother with children, and she happens to be a grandmother, a grandmother who has regularly grandchildren in her home.
I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the group and the members of that group of which there is a member sitting in this House today, who is endorsing and supporting that – threats to her life and threats to her home, implicit in that are threats to her family, to her children and her grandchildren. Mr. Speaker, that, in my view, is reprehensible and totally, totally unacceptable. Not just for the members of this House, Mr. Speaker, but I believe for the members of the general public who are watching at home and who pay attention to politics. I do not believe for one minute that people in Newfoundland and Labrador support or condone that kind of activity.
Every day, Mr. Speaker, we face a barrage of questions and debate back and forth by members opposite because it is their goal to defeat this government. That is the way democracy works. We accept that, Mr. Speaker, for what it is. We accept the lobbyists and those who try to advocate and influence social policy, Mr. Speaker. That is part of the process of democracy.
What is happening today with a member of this House supporting and participating in that kind of activity is beyond the pale, Mr. Speaker. I submit to you, as I would to members of this House and members listening, what kind of message is that sending to the people of the Province, to our children in the Province when we talk about bullying and harassment and intimidation? It was only a short while ago we had anti-bullying day in schools, Mr. Speaker, for our children.
To think that we are here today talking about a point of privilege because a member of this House is part of a group whose members are advocating that we kill the Premier. I cannot believe the day would ever come while I was sitting in this House that we would be talking about that.
Mr. Speaker, the member that I am referencing, who is a supporter of that group, is the NDP Member for St. John's Centre. Mr. Speaker, I ask that you rule that there is indeed a case of prima facie breach of privilege and I ask that the House be directed to take action under the following motion:
WHEREAS two interlinked Web sites published on Facebook with the explicit support, public support and participation of the New Democratic Party Member of the House of Assembly for St. John's Centre have included grievous threats to intimate, obstruct and assassinate the Premier of our Province;
BE IT RESOLVED that the House directs that the Speaker commission an investigation of these threats and take appropriate action; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Member of the House of Assembly for St. John's Centre be suspended from her position as a member in light of her public support for and participation in these activities.
MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party, to the point of privilege.
MS MICHAEL: To the point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Obviously, I am quite disturbed by what the House Leader has presented in terms of the content. I, too, do not condone the kind of language, the kind of actions that the House Leader is speaking of; however, this is the first time that I have heard of what he has put forward in terms of the Member for St. John's Centre, so I am requesting a short recess so that we can talk about this, Mr. Speaker, before coming back to the House to address the issue.
I am presuming that is in order, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: To respond to the Leader of the Third Party's question, I have heard your comment with respect to the point of privilege raised and I will hear comments from other members of the House who may wish to make comment before I make a comment myself.
The hon. the Opposition House Leader, to the point of privilege.
MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would just like to say at this juncture that I think a recess may be needed to review this, but at that point I do have comments I would like to make to this very serious issue that has been brought up. I do believe a recess – I have no issue with a recess at this time to review it because, obviously, it is a very serious matter.
MR. SPEAKER: Are there further comments to the point of privilege raised?
There being none, the House will take a brief recess for the Speaker to consider whether or not there is a prima facie case of privilege being breached.
With respect to the request for a recess to consider the issue and come back and present further comments, I will reserve any judgement with respect to that until I have had a chance to review it myself to determine whether it is a prima facie case. If there is a prima facie case, then there is a method for the House to deal with it and at that time anybody else who may want to make representation at that time will be given the opportunity.
The Speaker will consider first if there is a prima facie case of privilege, and until such time as I have done that, this House stands recessed.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
I have had an opportunity to review the statements presented by members with respect to the point of privilege raised by the hon. Government House Leader and I want to share with the House my ruling.
As members of this House, we are granted certain privileges and these include the right not to be molested or intimidated in carrying out our parliamentary duties. We also have the right to say things within this Chamber which may be subject to House discipline which may be, by virtue of our privilege, exempt from the normal civil and criminal remedies of the rest of society. With these privileges comes a great responsibility.
As the Speaker, I find myself once again in a position of having to remind members of the care which they must take when engaged with social media. Twitter and Facebook are wonderful, modern tools allowing us to maintain a connection with our constituents, our friends, and our colleagues as never before. With the use, comes this: a responsibility to use them wisely. That responsibility includes holding yourselves to a higher standard than would be accepted and acceptable for the general public.
I find the comments on Facebook referred to by the Government House Leader to be offensive and intimidating. They certainly require that we examine ourselves as to whether or not this is the kind of discourse that we wish to become involved with.
I have taken the time to examine the Facebook pages in question and have found that the Member for St. John's Centre appears on the list of members of this Facebook, and was invited to join that Facebook group on April 11, 2013. There is no way, however, of determining how this participation was initiated and accepted. There is no evidence that the member made actual comments on this site that would directly connect her to the offensive statements.
In this regard, as stated by Maingot, Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 227, "…the Member is entitled to receive the benefit of the doubt." I believe that the benefit of the doubt here extends to any findings of a breach of privilege of the House of Assembly or its members. It cannot be clearly and unequivocally stated that the Member for St. John's Centre was herself carrying out an implied or actual threat; therefore, there is no prima facie case of breach of privilege.
Despite this, such comments, though, diminish the work that we do in this House. An affiliation with this type of discourse by any member of this House is contemptuous of what we do, regardless of the role as a member of the Official Opposition or the Third Party or government.
As stated in O'Brien and Bosc on page 97, "Telecommunications, including… the Internet, should therefore not be used to transmit otherwise defamatory material." I want to broaden that to include the need to avoid the transmission of threatening material and participation in activities that might be seen to be threatening.
Consequently, I find that there has been a contempt against this House. I ask that the member apologize for any disrepute that she may have brought upon this House of Assembly by participating in a social media site which clearly targets a Member of the House of Assembly.
The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.
MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I feel that I –
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. Apologies in this House are to be without qualification and simply put.
I call upon the Member for St. John's Centre.
MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I will not apologize for something that I have not done. I am sorry; I cannot apologize to the House.
I would also like the opportunity to speak –
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The Speaker has made a ruling. The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. I ask for the second time, if the member would apologize to the House?
MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I wholly do not condone violence in any way, shape, or form. I cannot apologize for something –
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The Speaker is going to ask for the third and final time for the Member for St. John's Centre to apologize to the House.
MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Out of great respect for this House, I cannot apologize.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms if he would escort the Member for St. John's Centre out of the Assembly.
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