A formal allegation of misconduct has been made against a provincial cabinet minister by another Liberal member of the House of Assembly.
What comes next is anyone’s guess. No clear process has been laid out so far.
The leaders of both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democratic Party want to start by seeing the minister removed from their cabinet post until the matter can be addressed.
Premier Dwight Ball isn’t making any commitments, saying only that the next steps will be decided on swiftly, and after further consultation with the individual who filed the complaint.
The premier said he met with that MHA Wednesday morning, then met with the entire Liberal caucus, before speaking to reporters.
Speaking in front of the House of Assembly in St. John’s, he put the complaint on public record, but also — with permission from the complainant, according to Ball — made it clear the complaint is not related to any physical assault or sexual harassment.
It is no less serious, he said.
“This step today, I commend the person for coming forward with this,” he said.
During question period, the PCs and NDP said they disagreed with any scenario where the individual who came forward would be asked to say if the subject of the complaint should be removed as a minister.
PC Leader Paul Davis asked about the early response — whether Liberal MHAs had been asked to produce their cellphones for review earlier in the day.
The premier said he never asked for anything of the sort, there would be privacy considerations and there was no need for it.
Davis could not say with any certainty if the complaint being referred to Wednesday was the same person involved with what he had referred to in question period the day before.
“It may very well not be,” he said.
The way behaviour and harassment within the MHA ranks has come up as a discussion isn’t ideal, Davis said, but he suggested a positive outcome if an individual coming forward has their case addressed.
Davis said he would like to see an independent, third-party introduced into the process.
“I think it would be a mistake to have someone within government, within the House of Assembly, conduct the investigation. Especially when the minister is still holding office. That’s a mistake in the first part,” he said.
The ministerial role is a position of authority, Davis said, and it makes sense to remove that particular authority, as a point of potential conflict, until what was raised is resolved.
NDP Leader Gerry Rogers also said the minister needs to be asked to step down — or made to step down — until the case is done.
Rogers said it’s also essential for Ball to move quickly and clearly state the process ahead.
“I don’t think the premier clearly articulated that, and he must. He really, really must,” she told reporters.
Rogers also called for an outside agent for the follow-up investigation, rather than have government members or staff handle it.
“I don’t think this can be solved inside,” she said.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dale Kirby, meanwhile, was asked about an email he sent out on the heels of Tuesday’s question period, which was obtained by the CBC.
Kirby was asked if comments in the email were a means of intimidation, and used to halt the information sharing between House members.
“It wasn’t my intent,” he said.
Kirby said he wanted to see any outstanding issues brought to the premier’s office, to have a formalized process started.
Asked about what he was aware of in terms of the comments by Davis, Kirby said he had no information about anything like what was described.
“In our work, we govern ourselves by consensus model. So often times, we have very, very vigorous debates,” Kirby said. “There’s often quite rigorous debate, but no one’s ever come to me and said, I feel like I’ve been bullied, harassed or intimidated.”