On Tuesday, the Speaker of the House of Assembly asked NDP MHA Gerry Rogers to apologize for doing something that she clearly did not do. When she correctly refused, she was thrown out of the House.
Here’s the gist of the complaint against
Rogers: without her knowledge or consent, someone she did not know added her to a Facebook group called “Kathy Dunderdale must GO!!!” Meanwhile, someone else in that group made a suggestion that threatened Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
The threats are certainly unacceptable, but the connection to Rogers is tenuous at best. The process is pretty simple: people can simply click a mouse and add you to a group. You may find later that you have been listed as an opponent of a seal hunt or a supporter of a particular mayoralty candidate. You might not have known anything about it.
But that doesn’t mean someone won’t turn it into political fodder.
Government House Leader Darin King rose in the House in great umbrage, announcing “Mr. Speaker, the point of privilege that I want to speak to is indeed very serious. It is perhaps, in my tenure in this House, one of the most serious points of privilege that I have ever seen.”
First, for even raising the issue, King demonstrated once again government’s misguided actions.
Here’s some more of his comments: “I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the group and the members of that group of which there is a member sitting in this House today who is endorsing and supporting that — threats to her life and threats to her home, implicit in that are threats to her family, to her children and her grandchildren. That, in my view, is reprehensible and totally, totally, unacceptable; not just for the members of this House, Mr. Speaker, but I believe for the members of the general public who are watching at home and who pay attention to politics.”
Second, for ruling that Rogers had to apologize for something she did not do, Speaker Ross Wiseman demonstrated that in this case either he is unable to understand the concept of privilege, or else, and perhaps more seriously, any vestige of impartiality on his part is gone.
After all, he himself said, “There is no evidence that the member made actual comments on this site that would directly connect her to the offensive statements.”
Yet he ordered Rogers to apologize.
If someone signs Darin King or even Premier Dunderdale up to “Kathy Dunderdale must GO!!!” will Wiseman force them to stand and apologize?
If the answer is “no,” then we have far more serious problems in this province than Facebook groups.