Dale Kirby is no longer a member of the Liberal cabinet or caucus, following another formal complaint of harassment by members of the Liberal caucus.
Premier Dwight Ball made the announcement minutes before Monday’s sitting of the legislature. Ball did not get into details about the nature of the allegations, saying only that they are not sexual or physical. He said the allegations are similar to those levied against Eddie Joyce, who was removed from the Liberal caucus last Thursday.
“This is not about controlling caucus. This is about maintaining the integrity of the government that I lead. I will continue to lead in a very open and transparent way, making sure that we respect the rights of people to work in a workplace that is free from harassment,” Ball said.
Ball could not give any indication of how many formal complaints have come forward so far. As of Monday, two formal complains had been filed — one against Joyce and another against Kirby. Tory MHA Tracey Perry is reportedly finalizing a second complaint about Joyce.
Advanced Education, Skills, and Labour Minister Al Hawkins will take on the former Education minister’s portfolio while an investigation is conducted by Commissioner for Legislative Standards Bruce Chaulk.
Chaulk has been tasked with leading two harassment investigations, as well as an investigation into a $400,000 forgivable government loan to Jade Holdings that may or may not be completed.
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Ball says Chaulk will be able to get all the work done.
“He can use resources that are required — outside resources if required. The main thing is getting this review done properly, getting it done thoroughly, and the resources will be available for Mr. Chaulk to do so,” Ball said.
Just after Ball’s remarks to reporters, Speaker Perry Trimper began the sitting of the House with a lengthy reminder of the MHA code of conduct, warning against behaviour that could “bring discredit to their offices.”
Opposition Leader Paul Davis repeatedly asked the premier whether he was aware of any allegations or complaints against cabinet ministers before last Wednesday, when the allegations against Joyce emerged.
Davis referred to emails sent between Tory MHA Tracey Perry and Justice Minister Andrew Parsons in October 2017, where concerns about bullying were raised.
In the House, Parsons said further action related to the discussion was not requested, so he did nothing further.
Davis said if Parsons was aware of potential issues, the premier should have been aware, too.
“The minister sitting next to him was aware by correspondence he received last fall, clearly expressing concerns. Did he not tell him? If the premier wants to contend he didn’t know before last Wednesday, well I believe he has another problem,” Davis said.
“Concerns were raised in more than one way about his own cabinet ministers. And nobody told him?”
NDP Leader Gerry Rogers, a former colleague of Kirby before he left the NDP caucus in 2013, says she takes no joy in Kirby’s ousting.
“Any time one hears about any type of violation of a code of conduct, we should be surprised. This is not a day of celebration. We’ve all been elected to represent the people of the province and to do really significant work,” Rogers said.
“It really points to a need for a very clear, transparent process for dealing with harassment or intimidation within the legislature itself.”
On Wednesday, Tracey Perry will present a private member’s motion to the House of Assembly calling for an anti-harassment policy similar to what exists in Nova Scotia, which specifically covers members of the legislature in an effort to allow them to come forward with complaints.