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House opens Tuesday for contested Speaker election

Tuesday afternoon the House of Assembly will open for a rare, brief summer sitting so members can elect a Speaker.

The vote will take place around 2 p.m. in the legislature, with MHAs casting a secret ballot.

Up until a few days ago, it was widely expected that former Service NL minister Perry Trimper would get the job, but Harbour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons is challenging Trimper for the role.

Just over a week ago, Cathy Bennett resigned as minister of Finance, and Premier Dwight Ball shuffled his cabinet to replace her with Tom Osborne, who has been serving as Speaker of the House of Assembly since 2015.

Trimper was dropped from cabinet, but at the time, Ball made it clear he expected Trimper to land in the Speaker’s chair.

“He’s somebody that I think would actually make a fantastic Speaker,” Ball said at the time. “I’ll be asking our caucus to support Perry as speaker of the House of Assembly.”

But then Parsons confirmed she wants the job, too, and she’s been receiving encouragement from members of the Liberal caucus to take a run at the job.

“You know, we’re recognizing Canada 150 this year. We’ve just recognized over 100 years since Beaumont Hamel,” she said Monday. “Those Newfoundlanders went overseas and they sacrificed their lives and their personal lives and love for this very right, and I think it is my democratic responsibility to put myself forward.”

Parsons said the province has never had a female Speaker, and Tuesday’s vote is an opportunity to make history.

“I don’t need to win to be a good example. I just have to go for it,” she said. “And, you know, if I can be a good support system for young women, and women of all ages, of course, in my district, in our province and in our country, then you know what? That’s a win, in and of itself.”

The Speaker position is akin to a minister, who’s responsible for the functioning of the legislature. In addition to presiding over the proceedings of the House of Assembly, the Speaker is responsible for overseeing a variety of functions such as the auditor general, MHAs’ constituency offices and the House of Assembly broadcast centre.

In a news release, Official Opposition Leader Paul Davis said it’s a shame the legislature will only be open for one day, and won’t even hold question period.

“It will be costly for the House to reconvene for this half-hour session,” Davis said. “In order to get better value for the public money this will cost, the government should allow the House to remain open for more than that half-hour so that pressing questions can be asked of the premier and his ministers.”

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