Mocking democracy

Pam
Pam Frampton
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Two thumbs down for whoever directed this week’s political theatre

“I do not believe for a minute that the people of the province who are here in this gallery or who are watching at home would for one minute condone or accept that type of behaviour.”

Justice Minister Darin King, House of Assembly, April 16

Threats against the premier’s life — or anyone else’s — are odious and disturbing. Let’s get that out of the way right off the top.

Anyone who threatens harm to another has committed a criminal act and should be brought to justice.

Being a public figure means you are subject to more criticism than most, but should never mean you have a target on your back.

That being said, there is no excuse for what transpired in the House of Assembly this week.

NDP MP Gerry Rogers’ ouster from the House made a mockery of democracy and the notion of justice for all.

What, are we back in the McCarthy era, where people can be singled out for being part of a group whether they actually are or not?

The exchange between Speaker Ross Wiseman — his supposed impartiality nowhere to be found — and Rogers was downright Kafka-esque:

Mr. Speaker: I ask that the member apologize for any disrepute that she may have brought upon this House of Assembly by participating in a social media site which clearly targets a Member of the House of Assembly. …

Gerry Rogers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I feel that I—

Mr. Speaker: Order, please!

The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. Apologies in this House are to be without qualification and simply put.

I call upon the Member for St. John’s Centre.

Gerry Rogers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will not apologize for something that I have not done. I am sorry; I cannot apologize to the House.

I would also like the opportunity to speak—

Mr. Speaker: Order, please!

The Speaker has made a ruling. The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. I ask for the second time, if the member would apologize to the House?

Gerry Rogers: Mr. Speaker, I wholly do not condone violence in any way, shape, or form. I cannot apologize for something—

Mr. Speaker: Order, please!

The Speaker is going to ask for the third and final time for the Member for St. John’s Centre to apologize to the House.

Gerry Rogers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Out of great respect for this House, I cannot apologize.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please!

I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms if he would escort the Member for St. John’s Centre out of the Assembly.

 

Despite this administration’s penchant for keeping secrets and muzzling criticism, even as of last week I never would have believed such an exchange could have occurred in the House.

Rogers — as the whole country has heard by now — was signed up without her knowledge to a Facebook group that opposes the Dunderdale administration, and was therefore accused of being in the same league as another member of the group who posted the threats against the premier.

How tenuous a connection is that?

Was Tory MHA Steve Kent, a past chairman of the board of governors for Scouts Canada, responsible for the actions of those Scouts leaders who molested children?

Of course not. To suggest so would be absurd.

Is Premier Dunderdale responsible when someone in the Twittersphere uses her photo and tweets: “Mr. Speaker, me & Darin has some fun bullying breast cancer survivors around in the House Mr. Speaker. What a laugh Mr. Speaker!”

Absolutely not.

And yet Rogers was chastised and made to leave the House without even being able to defend herself. That’s despite the Speaker’s own acknowledgment that “There is no evidence that the member made actual comments on this site that would directly connect her to the offensive statements.”

Desperate times calls for desperate measures, it seems.

I think Rogers was humiliated in the House for two reasons, and neither of them had anything to do with Facebook.

The theatrics were contrived in an attempt to discredit the NDP — the Progressive Conservatives’ biggest rival — as well as to divert attention from the disastrous budget the government brought down on March 26.

Instead, it showed once again how this government tends to act out of political spite without doing due diligence and making sure its own nose is clean. CBC’s subsequent story about how Tory MHAs, including the premier, have social media links themselves to questionable groups just goes to show the ridiculousness of the claim made against Rogers.

And instead of having the Tories’ desired effect, the whole debacle ended up drawing national media attention and resulted in calls on social media for the resignation of the premier and the Speaker of the House.

Another day, another shot to the foot for this administration.

Justice Minister Darin King — who claims he was addressing the House in his capacity as Government House leader, and not as justice minister, as if that bit of parliamentary etiquette changes anything — said it best, in a reference to Gerry Rogers that more aptly describes his own government’s behaviour.

“I submit to you, as I would to members of this House and members listening,” he said. “What kind of message is that sending to the people of the province, to our children in the province when we talk about bullying and harassment and intimidation?”

I submit to Mr. King that his government’s strong-arm tactics are not sending a very wholesome message at all.

Luckily, though, it is a transparent one. We read you loud and clear.

 

Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at

pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Scouts Canada, NDP, CBC Government House

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    April 21, 2013 - 19:20

    This article sums it up nicely.

  • Petertwo
    April 21, 2013 - 07:42

    But who put Gerry Rogers name on that particular group's roster to start all this waste of time and taxpayers money? The house has nothing better to do?

  • sc
    April 20, 2013 - 21:05

    So this is the government that Newfoundlanders elected to run the province. Congratulations, you now have the entire country laughing at you. Can you imagine anyone, anywhere taking Dunderdale's government seriously? At least it's entertaining.

  • Alec C
    April 20, 2013 - 20:14

    Speaker fiasco proves why there should be recall legislation BEFORE the next provincial election. Whistle blower legislation voted outside of HoA in a Democratic referendum - MHAs can't be trusted to enact fair and accountable legislation. Changing the Rules for Speaker a) Must run as independent member not affiliated with any party b) short list NON-MHA Speakers and have a public vetting process c) Allow retire Justices' NOT majority vote to determine if Speaker acted without cause or with prejudice. d) If a Speaker's ruling is overturned Parliamentary Privilege for anything liable or slanderous is removed - MHA and/or their Party must pay any legal costs. MHA with Speakers ruling overturned loses X/total days House Sits in salary. Redrawing of provincial districts for FAR less seats - Mount Pearl only needs 1 seat Humber East West Valley combined into district of Humber - 3 seat reduction in only 2 areas. With 18 less seats the quality of MHAs running SHOULD vastly improve, coattail riders become extinct, people would actually have to fight for party nominations. Province only matches 40% pension contributions for MHAs or are taken out entirely. If recalled your pension will be GREATLY affected - 0 years in current term counted in calculations.

  • crista
    April 20, 2013 - 13:06

    truthful article Pam, who is going to enforce the rules of law???? this is not only about Gerry rogers and what she was accused of????they have taken the human rights right out of the code???? and continue to do it and not only the media knows it and still nothing thing is done about it, only it is getting worst????this time it could happen to you or your family???? if it is not already going on???? and now it is coming out openly in the house of assembly and look at the way they were accused, what do that tell you that the media are now allowed to use their special right in the proper fashion???? or is that going to stop again????,how much could have been prevented if only they had to do there job's????and if you think you are reading an abusive comment,you decide, and look at this and see what is gone on????and who is responsiable with out pointing fingers with out the proof. There is doubt????

  • Noman
    April 20, 2013 - 10:24

    Rogers needs to be held accountable. She was in a group that allowed death threats. Therefore, it is implict endorsement of the comments. She says she did not know she was in the group. However, facebook tells you when someone adds you to anything and it shows up in your group lists on the main page. So, Rogers had to know and if she never, she is not that smart and will not get another vote from me. In this world of online bullies there needs to be zero tolerance, no matter who the victim is.

    • Erin
      April 20, 2013 - 14:13

      I respectfully disagree. No one can be held responsible for the comments another makes, regardless of her membership in a group. I feel that it is imporant for MHAs to be involved in social media to be able to understand the concerns of citizens. Furthermore, the comment that was actually made and quoted wasn't a death threat. It was a commentary, and a joking one, on the government's performance in thier opinion. I feel it was in bad taste and I certainly don't condone bullies, but lets direct our venom the person who made the comment not the 1400 other people in the group who didn't.

    • W McLean
      April 20, 2013 - 14:30

      The leader of the PC Party once said people "should be shot over there". When will he, and every member of the PC Party, be held accountable for the comments and their implicit endorsement of them? Zero tolerance, right? Right? Zero tolerance?

    • Steve
      April 20, 2013 - 16:12

      Noman, I refuse to assume you are not intelligent, so I must assume you are wilfully ignoring the facts. This is a facebook group dedicated to criticism of the policies and leadership of Kathy Dunderdale. Last week there were about 1700 members, now I think it's about 3000. Only one of those members, as far as I know, said anything that could be considered a threat. That person was barred from the group and their comments removed. What more do you want? The group did not "allow" a death threat. Anyone can post anything they want on facebook, just as they can post anything they want here. The only difference is that on facebook, the comment goes live immediately, and the group moderator has to take it off if it is offensive, whereas here on the Telegram's web site, the moderator can prevent it from being posted. That's facebook - people say stupid things there all the time, but it is no reflection on other members of the group if one or even a few individuals get out of line.

  • Charlie
    April 20, 2013 - 10:03

    Well said Pam. People can see through the antics of this government. Government needs to apologize to Gerry Rogers. But I doubt that will happen because since this happened in the HOA I heard Joan Shea defending her governments decision and denouncing Gerry Rogers because Rogers won't remove herself from the sight. WAHHHH.... Shea, Dunderdale, King, Wiseman and whoever else in government that is behind this bullying need to be fired without benefits. The likes of this childish behaviour is ridiculous.

  • Frank Tock
    April 20, 2013 - 09:38

    The Dunderdale Regime and its shill Ross Wiseman tries to smear Gerry Rogers with silly accusations and Ms Rogers comes out of it looking like a stalwart defender of NLers' right to democracy while the Dunderdale Regime ends up looking like a hulking ogre from the Dark Ages. What a lamentably embarassing fiasco for this province.

  • Denise
    April 20, 2013 - 08:22

    Well said! I hope the voters of Newfoundland and Labrador remember these childish antics in 2015.

  • Tony Rockel
    April 20, 2013 - 08:07

    According to his own logic Darin King should leave the house, because, as justice minister, he has been associating with criminals.

  • Scott Free
    April 20, 2013 - 07:43

    Democracy is dead in NL; it died under Little Man Dan's reign. Then Dictator Dan decended to the Dunderdale Dimwits who demolished democratic practices. The effects of the Danny Damage Era will be felt in NL for generations. Our provincial government is adopting too many principles of Prorougie Steve's Con Party, aka, the Republican North Party.

  • Uncleches
    April 20, 2013 - 07:18

    Well said.