Trimper elected Speaker

Published on August 8, 2017

Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper was elected Speaker of the House of Assembly Tuesday, only the second time in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history that a contested election has been held for the position. Trimper was endorsed by Premier Dwight Ball.

©James McLeod/The Telegram

In the end, it was Perry Trimper who donned the robes and took his place in the Speaker’s chair in the House of Assembly.

For a couple days, it looked possible that the legislature might make history by electing the first female Speaker in provincial history, with Harbour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons throwing her hat in the ring.

But ultimately, Premier Dwight Ball’s formal endorsement of Trimper for the role was enough to carry the day when MHAs voted by secret ballot Tuesday afternoon in the legislature.

The vote tally was not released, so it is not known whether it was even close.

The biggest surprise of the day, though, came after the vote was over, when Opposition House Leader Keith Hutchings called for unanimous consent to hold question period — not normally part of the proceedings when the legislature elects a new Speaker.

The Tories had complained about the expense of bringing MHAs into town from across the province for only about half an hour to elect a new Speaker, saying there were important issues the government should answer questions about.

Calling Hutchings’ bluff, Government House Leader Andrew Parsons responded by offering unanimous consent, saying, “Bring on the question period.”

Backbench Liberal MHA Graham Letto followed up by exclaiming, “Boom!”

The actual back-and-forth of question period Tuesday was nothing too remarkable.

Opposition Leader Paul Davis asked about the state of the province’s finances, offshore oil and gas development policy, and why the provincial government parted ways with law firm McInnes Cooper when it came to consulting help on collective bargaining.

Newly minted Finance Minister Tom Osborne said the McInnes Cooper breakup was a mutual sort of thing — no one got dumped — and he wants to meet with the firm to understand what sort of work they did up until now as part of the collective bargaining process.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with McInnes Cooper to see what they can provide to me in terms of the work that they’ve done,” Osborne said. “I’m not prepared to say that it was a mistake (to hire them). Anything that can lead to productive discussions with the unions is valuable.”

As has been his tactic throughout most of this year in the House of Assembly, Ball used his responses to attack the Tories, most notably for their decision to sanction and press forward with the beleaguered Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

“These are questions that have been answered,” Ball told reporters afterwards. “We didn’t need Paul Davis standing up today showboating. It was about a political opportunity for the leader of the Opposition.”

As for whether he’s upset that Parsons ignored his call for all Liberal MHAs to support Trimper, Ball said he’s not bothered by it.

“It’s really something I applaud and celebrate today,” he said.

“This was democracy in action today.”