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Pam Frampton: Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Eddie Joyce.
MHA Eddie Joyce. — Telegram file photo

“Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” — Will Rogers
 

Between them, Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby uttered a handful of words of contrition this week, none of them acknowledging anything they might have done wrong.

Joyce and Kirby are the two members of the House of Assembly made to apologize for breaching the MHA Code of Conduct.

It didn’t sound like they spent much time crafting their terse expressions of regret.

There was no concession that they had behaved disrespectfully, no words of apology for the colleagues who had complained about them. Certainly no signs of remorse.

Now they’ll undergo workplace sensitivity training.

Seriously?

You have to ask what it says about the tenor of provincial politics when elected representatives have to be trained in ethical behaviour.

No, you cannot pressure another MHA to give your friend a job, particularly a friend who doesn’t even qualify for an interview through the legitimate hiring process.

No, you can’t suggest to a colleague that they should put their convictions about an issue aside and toe the party line, or else get out of the caucus.

They have to be taught this?

You have to ask what it says about the tenor of provincial politics when elected representatives have to be trained in ethical behaviour.

Maybe they need some sort of handbook that explicitly sets out what is and is not appropriate.

But wait — there is such a guide: the Members’ Handbook, and my guess is that when it says one of the roles of an MHA is to “act as spokespersons for their constituents and help to solve problems,” the problems in question don’t include helping their buddy get a public service job.

Maybe Joyce and Kirby only skimmed these sections: “We will perform our duties honestly, faithfully, ethically, impartially and efficiently, respecting the rights of the public and our colleagues. We will refrain from conduct that might impair our effectiveness or that would compromise our integrity.”

And: “We will treat colleagues, Members and the public with courtesy and respect.”

There are days when I despair of political evolution ever happening here.

It occurred to me this week, after MHAs debated their colleagues’ punishment for hours, that it’s not just the politicians who are being shortchanged by a process that sees allegations leaked to the public and accusations bandied about in the House before investigations have even begun.

It’s the general public who are the biggest losers.

We take the time to go to the ballot box and vote for people we hope will work diligently and look out for our best interests. Instead, among the many well-intentioned MHAs who take their seats in the House, there are invariably some old-school back-slappers for whom patronage is still par for the course, and some pumped-up-on-power-types who think they can sway anyone they view as less assertive; just enough of these two types to tarnish other MHAs’ professionalism and increase public cynicism.

And then, when someone has the good sense to call out bad behaviour, we’re treated to hours of public debate on the taxpayers’ dime, as the economy crumbles and the mercury drops and people live in dread of their electrical bills.

I’ll give Dale Kirby credit for one thing: at least he had the good sense not to carelessly toss around words like “lynching,” or liken his treatment to that of someone suffering under barbarous conditions in Syria, as Eddie Joyce did.

“It’s just like Syria —,” Joyce said, “someone don’t like you? Let’s leak it to somebody, get your name out there. Once your name is out there, they’ll drag you out and flog you, who cares.”

To compare what’s happened to him as he sits in the warm, safe legislative chamber and collects a generous pension, while Syrians are literally fleeing for their lives amid bombings and other violence speaks for itself.

Here’s a suggestion for whoever’s lining up the sensitivity training. Why not throw in a few free history lessons for Joyce while you’re at it.

Recent columns by this author

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Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton

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