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Independent MHAs say they have a role to play in Newfoundland and Labrador government

The Confederation Building in St. John's. Government work — and politicians' pay — continues during a provincial election. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
The Confederation Building in St. John's. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO - Keith Gosse

Eddie Joyce says they are members like any other in the House; Paul Lane and Perry Trimper find it liberating


Sitting as an independent MHA is not something Perry Trimper, Paul Lane or Eddie Joyce see as anything but positive.

When the unofficial results of the 2021 Newfoundland and Labrador election were announced on Saturday, Trimper, representing the Labrador district of Lake Melville; Lane, Mount Pearl-Southlands, and Joyce, Humber-Bay of Islands, were declared the victors.

As required by law, the official vote confirmation will take place today.


The election was Trimper’s first run as an independent after having resigned from the Liberal cabinet in September 2019 following allegations of racism. In November 2020 he resigned from the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent.

He said there are two kinds of power that one can think about as an MHA and sitting as an independent.

The first is the classic role they could play in the case of a minority government, which some people were hoping for, he said.

“And that’s always a chance for an independent, for example, to be a bit of a powerbroker, to align themselves one way or the other and see if a coalition could be built.”

Beyond that, independent members have the opportunity to ask questions during question period, to bring petitions to the House, and to bring issues to the floor and seek response from the minister responsible, Trimper said.

“You just have to know how to use the opportunities that are there for you.”

Perry Trimper - Evan Careen
Perry Trimper - Evan Careen

Not having to toe the party line, wait for an opportunity to speak or balance the wishes of his district with government priorities is liberating, he said.

Lane’s win was his second as an independent, but he was part of a government for some time.

He won as a Progressive Conservative in 2011 and crossed the floor to become a Liberal in 2014. He won as a Liberal in 2015, but was suspended from the Liberal caucus in 2016 for voting against the budget.

He echoed Trimper’s sentiment that being an independent member is liberating, and said he’s found it beneficial.

He said the day-to-day work MHAs do for their constituents is the same whether they’re an independent, a member of the government or a member of the official opposition.

Paul Lane - File Photo
Paul Lane - File Photo

And independent MHAs have the same access to bureaucrats in the various departments as anyone else, he said.

When the House opens, Lane said, being an independent MHA means freedom to bring up issues on behalf of constituents.

“And to say and do what you want based on what you feel is reflective of what your constituents want you to say or vote.”

In his case, there have been bills and motions where he has voted with the government and against the opposition parties, and others when he has voted against the government.

“And that’s the beauty of it.”

Eddie Joyce. - SaltWire Network File Photo
Eddie Joyce. - SaltWire Network File Photo

In Humber-Bay of Islands, Joyce was re-elected in his second run as an independent.

Until 2018 Joyce sat as a Liberal, but was removed from the caucus and cabinet after allegations of harassment and bullying were filed against him by then Service NL minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh. In 2019 he ran and retained his seat as an independent.

Joyce said an independent member is the same as a member within government.

“You work with government and you bring up ideas for government, and you ensure that the issues of the district are brought forward, and work with all government officials to try and get resolution and support for issues that’s pertaining to your district," he said.

“You just can’t be in there criticizing, you have to give suggestions. And there are many times also that you have to work with the government to help the betterment of the province.”

He said members need to ensure that when they bring issues forth, they’re legitimate and they’re for the benefit of the province or their district.

He sees having a majority government as meaning stability for the province.

“We’re going through a tough time right now financially. We’re going through a tough time medically, stress-wise on a lot of people. So, we need stability and the people of the province said they wanted stability, and we have it.”

Diane Crocker reports on west coast news.
[email protected]
Twitter: @WS_DianeCrocker


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