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Democratic reform delayed in N.L. legislature before it began

House of Assembly, Confederation Building, St. John's.
House of Assembly, Confederation Building, St. John's. - SaltWire Network

Blame flying left and right over potential five-month delay in democratic reform committee

The long-awaited all-party committee on democratic reform will have to be awaited a little longer — maybe as long as November.

Government House Leader Andrew Parsons introduced the motion to create the committee on Wednesday afternoon with the original intention of passing the motion that evening. Opposition members, however, brought in some amendments to the original motion, which Parsons says signalled the committee wouldn’t get its approval by the end of the Spring session.

Once the House of Assembly closed at around 6:00pm last Thursday, the motion was left undecided.

Parsons
Parsons

“We can’t move it forward until the House votes on it. It’ll stay on the order paper until the House resumes again — so either the Fall or if there is a special session, which may or may not happen,” said Parsons.

The all-party committee on democratic reform was a campaign promise by the Liberals and included in Parsons’ original mandate letter.

Parsons blames Opposition members for the delay — but he considers his work done as far as his mandate is concerned.

“My mandate letter said that I was to bring a resolution to the House of an all-party committee on democratic reform — that’s what I did,” said Parsons.

“I had hoped that we’d be able to resolve for the House to have the committee and once the committee was struck, the committee could determine its mandate, but here we are.”

The original motion stated that the government would establish the committee. The amendment, brought forward by the PCs, changed the language to say that the House of Assembly would establish the committee. 

Rogers
Rogers

NDP leader Gerry Rogers says that amendment makes total sense and there’s no reason for the delay.

“It was a strong, clear amendment. That’s the way select committees should work. They should not be struck by government. They should be executed by the House of Assembly,” she said.

Rogers says it’s not that government just ran out of time to vote on the measure — the House could have remained open to get the motion passed and allow the work to start.

“The people of the province are ready for it. And then he just pulled it off the table. I can only assume that he has no real intention of enacting this,” said Rogers.

Independent MHA Paul Lane planned to bring forth an amendment of his own to ensure his own involvement as a voting member the committee, though he says he wasn’t too confident it would pass. Even without a vote, Lane says he fully intends to participate in the committee’s work.

Lane says the Liberals have caused the delay, which could make it impossible for the committee to make any recommendations before the 2019 election. 

Lane
Lane

“The House won’t be open until Nov. 5. Even if that was the very first thing dealt with — which there’s no guarantee it would be — then you have to set the terms of reference, establish the committee, and so on. Then, we’re into Christmas. So, in all likelihood, there’s going to be nothing substantial done until the next election — would be my fear,” said Lane.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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