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James
James McLeod
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NDP pledges no heckling ahead of House opening

Politicians have been chomping at the bit in recent weeks, and Monday they'll finally be away to the races. At 2 p.m., Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie will deliver the speech from the throne, officially kicking off the 47th General Assembly.

Things will be a little bit different this time around. The Oct. 11 provincial election more than doubled the size of the opposition, and newly-minted Speaker Ross Wiseman will preside over the House.

In question period, the Liberals and New Democrats (NDP) will have to be more economical with their time.

The Liberals will have 18 minutes for questions - a reduction from the 26 minutes they enjoyed during the last House.

The NDP will have 12 minutes for questions, which is an improvement over the four minutes they used to have, but Leader Lorraine Michael now has to divvy up the time between her five-member caucus.

There are also early indications that Wiseman wants to limit the lengthy preambles and political grandstanding that have become common in question period.

In anticipation of the new session, members from each of the three parties answered a few questions from The Telegram about what they expect to see in the House.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramJames

Government House Leader Jerome Kennedy

What issues do want to debate in the House of Assembly?

"I certainly want to see the Muskrat Falls debated, and the opportunity for a full discussion on Muskrat Falls. Also, I think that issues relating to the fishery and intertwined labour issues will be at the forefront. And then, the budget because it's the spring."

This is the first sitting of the House since the Oct. 11 provincial election. How do you think the election results will affect the House dynamic?

"I think what you're going to see is the opposition parties fighting among themselves to establish who is the true opposition. I think that the NDP will be hungry and have a lot to prove, and I think that it will make for an interesting session."

Nearly everyone has some sort of complaint about behaviour in the House of Assembly. What will you be doing to improve decorum?

"Question period is a crucial part of the House of Assembly process. It's especially important that when there are visitors in the gallery - and especially school children or seniors - that decorum be very good. However, a certain amount of heckling is tolerated and, fortunately or unfortunately, the process is such that when debate ensues, oftentimes tempers will flare and emotional reactions will prevail as opposed to logic."

Liberal Opposition Leader Dwight Ball

What issues do want to debate in the House of Assembly?

"We'll be starting out our questioning, I think, with the various ministers and Muskrat (Falls) will certainly lead the debate in the early days. Search and rescue, we'll see that as one of the top priorities for us. We'll be discussing the effects of the upcoming budget on a sustainable economy - how government spends its money. Affordable housing and the municipal framework, you know, new sources of funding, these are things that obviously will be top priorities for the official Opposition. I will have one other, and that will be the affordable housing, which we're finding in this recent trip to Labrador, it's a huge issue up here, as it is in many parts of the province."

This is the first sitting of the House since the Oct. 11 provincial election. How do you think the election results will affect the House dynamic?

"We've got a new speaker, and we're expecting to hear from the discussions that we've had with him in terms of question period we should see some shorter preambles and more concise-type secondary follow-up questions. I think that's good. We've got a bigger opposition, of course. We've got our six members, five members of the NDP and of course with that we now have an official third party which means that question period itself will change, and so we'll have less time for questions so the more concise we are, I think that will be important at least for question period."

Nearly everyone has some sort of complaint about behaviour in the House of Assembly. What will you be doing to improve decorum?

"I've made a commitment that I want to see the House of Assembly become more of a professional setting. It's important to me, I mean, I want to see the questions that we ask as an opposition to be more fact-finding, to be more meaningful. I'd like to bring some better decorum back to the House of Assembly. You know right now, we all know the history; the premier has called it dysfunctional. We'll be doing whatever we can do to ensure the place has just got a more professional look to it."

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael

What issues do want to debate in the House of Assembly?

"One of the issues, of course, will be questions with regards to Muskrat Falls, and those questions will be very concerned about Muskrat Falls and how it relates to the people in the province. So that's certainly going to be a big area for us. ... Second, we continue to be quite concerned about what's going on in our health care system and, as in the past, we will be having a lot of questions to government with regard to where things are, such as with long term care and home care strategies, and we will be looking to see how they will be dealing with wait times for sure and the sharing of resources in the health care system. These will be two big things with us." (Michael also mentioned economic issues, the fishery, seniors and child care.)

This is the first sitting of the House since the Oct. 11 provincial election. How do you think the election results will affect the House dynamic?

"We obviously have a different House of Assembly now. We're going in with 11 people in the opposition side and five of those 11 are New Democrats, so there's going to be a different dynamic, I think, in terms of the focus of questions that are being asked. I think it's going to be a different dynamic for the government - no longer looking across and even having some of their own people on the other side of the House. We have a change in ministers, which will, I think, impact the dynamic as well."

Nearly everyone has some sort of complaint about behaviour in the House of Assembly. What will you be doing to improve decorum?

"We have decided as a caucus - without any doubt whatsoever - that we will not be heckling. Yes, there are times when, you know, you may in an excited moment, say something across the floor. It's hard to control that, but our plan with regard to heckling: we won't be heckling. And we would like to see the type of heckling that we've had going on in the House in the past, we'd like to see that ended, because it serves no end."

 

Organizations: NDP, General Assembly, Falls

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Government House, Labrador

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  • Frank M
    March 03, 2012 - 09:16

    Only Lorraine Michael, in her last sentence on issues to be debated, mentioned the Fishery. Tells you the importance of that sector to the Liberals and PC's, and only a last gasp interest for the NDP. So, without the Fishery, what do the 3 parties see as the future of rural Newfoundland and Labrador? No Muskrat falls jobs for Triton or Fleur de Lys.