New Democrat MHA Dale Kirby chose to be thrown out of the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon, when he refused to apologize for saying “thousands” when he probably should have said “about 25.”
Kirby ran afoul of Speaker Ross Wiseman for saying he was tabling a petition with thousands of signatures in the House when in fact, Thursday afternoon he was only submitting between 20 and 30 signatures on a petition calling on the government to pass anti-replacement worker legislation.
“My statement, and you can read it in Hansard, was that this is a petition that thousands of people have signed, right? And it is a petition that thousands of people have signed,” Kirby told reporters after he was tossed out of the legislature. “I guess, you know, the way it looks in Hansard is that I was referring to thousands that I had in my hand. Of course I’m smart enough to know the difference — we hope — between 20-odd and several thousand.”
Opposition politicians use petitions as a way to needle the government and eat up speaking time in the legislature.
An MHA is allowed to re-table any petition with three or more new signatures on it. This has led Kirby and some other opposition MHAs to re-submit the same petitions dozens of times.
Kirby has petitions on anti-replacement worker legislation and school busing issues he tables virtually every day in the House, each time with a few more signatures.
Last week, Kirby submitted the same petition again, and said he was “happy to enter this petition, which has been signed by thousands of people across Newfoundland and Labrador.”
On Monday, government House leader Jerome Kennedy took umbrage.
“I would suggest that this is a very serious matter,” Kennedy said. “That kind of behaviour, I would suggest to you, is unacceptable, and something that should be frowned upon by this honourable House.”
After studying it for a day, Wiseman sided with Kennedy and demanded Kirby apologize and withdraw the comment.
When Kirby refused to do so, Wiseman directed the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove Kirby from the House.
“I’ll remove myself from the chamber,” Kirby said.
Kennedy declined to speak to reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Kirby said he won’t let up on his petition campaign in the coming weeks, even though he’s clearly annoying folks on the government side of the House.
“It suggests to me that the government members are dissatisfied with the frequency with which we present petitions in the legislature,” he said.
“To them, I just say, tough.”