Kirby eats crow over ‘liar’ tweet

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James McLeod
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MHA won’t back down after nasty online exchange

New Democrat MHA Dale Kirby speaks to reporters Wednesday afternoon outside the House of Assembly. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Depending on who you asked, it was 140 characters worth of “very serious, very offensive, and indeed very unparliamentary” language or just another episode in the “dog and pony show” in the House of Assembly.

It was a comment posted on the social networking website Twitter shortly before midnight by New Democrat MHA Dale Kirby.

“What’s low is to witness a government MHA out-and-out lie during debate in the legislature as we all did tonight,” Kirby wrote.

First thing Wednesday afternoon, government deputy House leader Darin King was on his feet demanding an apology and a retraction from Kirby.

“He accused a government member of lying in this chamber,”  King said. “Mr. Speaker, what that does, besides the fact that it is a serious breach, it calls into doubt the honesty and the integrity of all members on the government side of the House. For that reason, we see this as a very serious breach of conduct for this House.”

 

Under parliamentary tradition, members are not allowed to accuse each other of lying — it’s deemed to be “unparliamentary.”

MHAs routinely take each other to task for comments made on the floor of the House of Assembly, but raising grievances over remarks posted publicly on the Internet is relatively uncharted territory.

In the past year, the majority of MHAs have set up Twitter accounts, and often engage in vitriolic, public exchanges via 140 character snippets.

Kirby immediately apologized and withdrew the remark in the House Wednesday afternoon.

However, speaking to reporters later in the day, he wasn’t backing down.

Kirby said during the evening sitting of the House, Progressive Conservative MHA David Brazil quoted Kirby deriding members of the public service, calling officials in the finance department incompetent.

Brazil, Kirby said, was referring to comments made on “On Point,” a CBC political affairs show.

Kirby said he was talking about financial projections where the government consistently seems to have a larger surplus than it originally budgeted for. He said it could be chalked up to, “either gross incompetence or wilful deception, and I believe it is the later because there are a lot of very talented people working up in Confederation Building.”

“At no time did I say that I believe that the minister and his staff were incompetent.”

On Wednesday, Kirby doubled down on his comment calling Brazil a liar. He said Brazil was either deliberately not telling the truth, or he is “completely incompetent himself.”

Kirby said he wants an apology.

“It’s a complete and utter falsehood, and he should apologize to me,” he said.

Speaking in the House, King argued that taking the shot at Brazil over Twitter was particularly cowardly and serious.

“It can be a real curse for everybody, because there is nothing easier than standing behind a keyboard when you do not have to face the cameras and the audience and members in this House and defend your actions and take heat for your actions if people challenge you back,” King said. “It is very easy. I have a Blackberry, Mr. Speaker, like everyone else. It is very easy to do when you do not have to face the person that you are accusing and stand up and defend it and debate it, but, Mr. Speaker, we see it as very serious, a very serious challenge in the highest level, to contempt in this House.”

Kirby, meanwhile, dismissed the whole thing as a “complete waste of time” that the government is using as a distraction.

“It’s sort of an ongoing dog and pony show that detracts against some of the egregious problems we have in this province right now — plants closing down left, right and centre, the minister of fisheries has said we can expect, what, 20 more plants to close down before long,” Kirby said. “We’ve got all sorts of problems in health care, in education, in search and rescue, and this is what we have to debate in the House of Assembly? Something I tweeted last night when I got home?”

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: House of Assembly.It, On Point, CBC

Geographic location: Brazil, Confederation Building

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  • Ford Elms
    May 10, 2012 - 22:49

    King says Kirby's tweet "calls into doubt the honesty and the integrity of all members on the government side of the House". Everyone in this province knows the only honest politician is one that hasn't been caught. It's really funny to see him getting all fussed up over someone questioning honesty and integrity that we all know doesn't exist. He can't seriously think many people in this province think the government is honest. How stupid does he think people are? I think it's time we all stopped getting mad our politicians and had a good laugh at them instead. Perhaps if hundreds of people marched to the Hill and made fun of them for believing their own press like that, it might have an effect. Protest marches don't seem to get anywhere, perhaps a "Mockery March" might be more effective. At least they wouldn't be able to pretend any more that people in the province think they're honest.

    • Kate M
      May 11, 2012 - 07:11

      I like it! A Mockery March! While I'm all for the government and what it stands for in theory, let’s not fool ourselves in to believing ALL those we elect are honest. Politicians are either inherently greasy or learn it through the job. If you ask me, they take this social media stuff much too seriously. A bit of satire will catch their attention and get the general public’s messages across.

  • Edward Power
    May 10, 2012 - 19:32

    I don't need 140 characters to accurately describe these "characters", 5 will suffice. Twits.

  • AR
    May 10, 2012 - 14:38

    Hey Duffy, $60,000 a year ?. This is not 1960. Ministers' secretaries haul down $60,000; Ministers make twice that. Why do you think so many of these jokers want to get on the gravy train ?. It has nothing to do with 'giving back', ' doing my part ', or any of that garbage they spout when running for election.

  • Dan
    May 10, 2012 - 14:32

    King is just diverting the issue......good old politics. Hundreds lose jobs in his district under his watch and he is concerned about a twitter. Atta boy Darrin, you are just what we needed!

  • Former PC Supporter
    May 10, 2012 - 12:05

    Jordan, I live in Dale Kirby's district and he earned my vote. He called me on the morning of the election and discussed with me my hesitation to vote for anyone. He gave me the impression that he was sincere in his desire to be an effective representative for the district and that he would work hard to make a positive difference. I did vote for him, and from everything I've seen him do he's been keeping up his end of the deal. The previous MHA, a PC, didn't appear to do a tap in all the years that he represented the district. Following that, Dale Kirby is like a breath of fresh air. I hope that he is not thrown off by the nastiness being directed his way by individuals who feel that he is a threat. He isn't a threat, he emulates the type of MHA all voters should have. We'd be lucky to have more like him, and a lot less of the typical deadwood that often get elected because they run for the right party.

  • Lame Journalists
    May 10, 2012 - 11:02

    It is well known in political circles that the Telegram's James MacLeod, CBC's David Cochrane and NTV's Michael Connors would have little to report without their Twitter feeds. The days of investigative journalism has been trumped by the necessity to deliver stories, any stories, before the other outlets. So much has gone by right under their noses.

    • Ray
      May 10, 2012 - 12:11

      I can remember back to to the late 80's when there was a by-election in St. John's. Clyde Wells was the Liberal leader and Brian Peckford was Premier. The day before the by-election, Liberal MHA Wilson Callan crossed the floor in a bid to discredit wells. He appeared live on CBC's evening news broadcast and host Anne Budgell dissected him to the point he was visibly flinching onscreen. The liberals won the by-election, eventually the government and Callan faded away to oblivion. You don't see hard hitting journalism like that anymore, except for Lyndon Macintyre and a rare few others.

  • Marg
    May 10, 2012 - 10:08

    Most of them are a bunch of liars, or certainly know how to "beat around the bush", so why waste time on this particular issue? How many campaign promises have yet to be kept???

  • Dan
    May 10, 2012 - 09:46

    @ Duffy 60K a year!!! Try double that and factor in all of the greased handshakes along the way! Don't Back down Dale, Liars always seek a way to deflect those that are on to them!

  • Whaddaya At ?
    May 10, 2012 - 09:06

    Politicians top the list when it comes to the least trusted people in society, so what's the big deal when one of them calls the other a liar ?. They address each other as ' Honorable Member ', with a ' wink wink, nudge nudge, as if the use of the word ' Honorable' bestows upon them some sort of credibility. ' Honor ' connotes high regard or respect, integrity and honesty and is an oxymoron when used in the House of Assembly, where our politicians show a complete lack of respect for each other, insult and ridicule each other and thump their desks like a troop of baboons.

  • David
    May 10, 2012 - 08:39

    All politicans should serve exactly two terms. One in office, and one in jail.

  • Sue Kelland-Dyer
    May 10, 2012 - 08:37

    Damn Kirby's Tweet, the Premier should Resign http://bit.ly/JCCPlw The government is simply deflecting from continued failures.

  • Harvey
    May 10, 2012 - 08:36

    Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that lying is part of a politicians job !!!

  • ICECAPSFAN
    May 10, 2012 - 08:31

    Please fans WEAR WHITE clothing to the remainder of the ICECAPS PLAYOFF GAMES. Players and Organization are asking for a WHITE OUT, wear WHITE SHIRTS to participate in WHITE OUT MILE ONE. Spread the word !!

  • Graham
    May 10, 2012 - 08:27

    Well Minister King sometimes you really do have a problem dealing with the truth. Either giving or receiving it. DEAL WITH IT DARIN.

  • Too Funny
    May 10, 2012 - 07:49

    “At no time did I say that I believe that the minister and his staff were incompetent.” I guess that means he was calling the minister and his employees liars. Maybe that is true, maybe it isn't. It's sad that we can't trust any politician. But what's really sad is that there are people out there that actually follow tweets by politicians.

  • Holden
    May 10, 2012 - 07:48

    I can see that this would apply in the House, but when a comment is not really spoken in the House do we have an extension of the powers of the Speaker here?

  • Duffy
    May 10, 2012 - 07:41

    What is the issue. Lying on a regular basis is what they do and more so during elections and when the public is watching. It is about $60,000 a year salary plus perks and benefits, the ability to retire in 10 years, fact finding tours, free meals, transportation costs covered while their office Staff does all the work. If they started telling the truth all the time we would be concerned. Leave him alone!

  • Roy
    May 10, 2012 - 07:38

    You are right former PC, our finance minister has underestimated revenues every year since in power and come up with a so called windfall. He has said that giving indexing or one time adjustment to pensioners who haven't had a raise in over 20 years will break the govt. I wouldnt call them liars but they certainly know their way around the truth. I guess there will be another election a few years from now so if you the opposition will use your common sense and not act so foolishly you may stand a snow balls chance in hell of forming the next govt. You have't convinced me yet but keep trying.

  • Former PC supporter
    May 10, 2012 - 06:43

    PC's hate smart, competent MHA's who actually work for their constituants.

    • Jordan
      May 10, 2012 - 09:17

      Well that wouldn't be Kirby then.