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LETTER: What exactly is going on?

letter to the editor
letter to the editor

Mr. Speaker, may I push my soapbox to the middle of the floor of the House of Assembly and speak on a Point of Order as a member of the general public?

What the hell is going on here? How did this legislature get to the point of allegations of bullying and harassment against those in these leadership roles? And in this era of politicians constantly reminding us they are proactive not reactive, how is it that a culture of bullying, harassment, poor conduct and poor behavior is only now surfacing and being dealt with? It strongly appears these sores have been oozing puss for some time. A culture of behaviour does not develop overnight.

No one thought to speak up until now?

As reported, MHA Tracey Perry started a dialogue over her concerns of bullying with Justice Minister Andrew Parsons last fall. With Parsons being aware of potential issues, it is unclear to me why Premier Dwight Ball was not made aware of the allegations brought forth by Perry. Did Parsons not feel it necessary to contact the premier’s office or the premier directly to bring him up to speed on allegations involving the premier's own cabinet ministers? Would it not be considered to be proactive to have delved into this last fall as opposed to the reactive measures we all now see?

We don’t have to look back too far in our province’s history to be reminded of the behaviour of some of our MHAs in what became known as the Constituency Allowance Scandal. MHAs from all three parties paraded through the courts in Atlantic Place as taxpayers learned the details of how they got fleeced by our politicians.

There were no checks and balances in place to monitor what for some was criminal activity.

Fast forward to today and we see there are yet more gaps in our political system. Surprisingly, the MHA Code of Conduct is not enough. To fill some of the void the Human Resources Secretariat is now offering sensitivity training to MHAs and policies are being developed on harassment.

Even though those gaps have been identified, I have always thought politicians can sometimes fly under the repercussion radar in terms of how they conduct themselves. A kind of impunity with no penalty for their actions. Case in point: what government employee would have the free rein, in their official capacity, to personally attack on Twitter Canadian actress Pam Anderson by referring to her first as a “hasbeen ‘actor’” and then stigmatizing her hepatitis C disease referring to it as an “incurable sexually transmitted disease.”

Go further still and personally attack also on Twitter Anderson’s colleague (who together were protesting the seal hunt) the late Sam Simon (of the TV show “The Simpsons”) with the grenade “a guy dying with cancer” (Twitter: December 2013). You can be a cabinet minister in Premier Ball’s government today (as is the case for this Honourable Member) with this in your Twitter history if you are a politician. As just one example, try to get yourself short listed to the role of Chief of the RNC (by this very same government) with that tirade in your Twitter account. Such belittling is not just an expression of words but of how you think. Just evidence of a complete different set of standards on which to be measured.

Speaking of standards, as members of the public we expect more from our politicians.

We hold them to a higher standard. Unfortunately, we are reminded once again some politicians don't always operate at that higher level.

Might I suggest we rethink the use of the term Honourable Member.

If a culture of bullying and harassment is woven into the fabric of the House of Assembly, perhaps use of this term could be something an MHA has to strive to earn as opposed to being addressed by default. Thank-you Mr. Speaker.

Bern Kenny

Corner Brook

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