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EDITORIAL: House of shards

Premier Dwight Ball answers questions in the House of Assembly Tuesday about his former clerk of the executive council, Bernard Coffey, who resigned amid controversy over the weekend.
Premier Dwight Ball answers questions in the House of Assembly. At right is Justice Minister Andrew Parsons. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO

Will a weakened grip on power change Liberals’ governing style?

Well, if provincial politics is your thing, Monday’s certainly on your calendar.

That’s because the House of Assembly will be opening for business for the first time since June when it held 10 days during a test drive session to deal with the provincial budget and its attendant legislation.

Leading into the fall session, the government will have to stickhandle not having a majority of the province’s seats for real, and for a much longer haul. And things are likely to get stickier. After all, having just gone through an election ending May 19, no one in the House of Assembly was likely to tip over the apple cart only a few weeks later during sittings spread over three calendar weeks in June.

What remains to be seen is whether a tenuous grip on government will lead the provincial Liberals to change their behaviour.

On election night, Premier Dwight Ball said things would be different this time around. “We have the opportunity to achieve so much when we work together. The people of our province want to see hard work, they want to see partnerships, and they want to see humility.”

There’s probably been a fair amount of hard work in the past, but partnerships and humility?


On election night, Premier Dwight Ball said things would be different this time around.

Whether Tory or Liberal, one constant of past governments has been the short time it takes for a new administration to start believing in the singular brilliance of its own ideas, and the equally short time it takes for cabinet members to be bluntly dismissive of anyone in opposition.

That’s probably something that won’t fly with such ease in a more equally divided House.

First up will be selecting a Speaker. If the House’s referee is a Liberal, that knocks the government from 20 seats to just 19, compared to the 15 Progressive Conservative, three NDP members and two independents (former Liberals Paul Lane and Eddie Joyce).

There are other interesting things when it comes to the Speaker’s chair, as well. Former cabinet minister Perry Trimper, who resigned his cabinet job after a failed phone hang-up caught him out in an intemperate voicemail conversation, apparently hopes that a few scant weeks in backbench purgatory are enough. He’s planning on running for the job of Speaker of the House, which he held in the last Liberal government before going into cabinet. The Tories have already said they won’t support Trimper’s election.

And the Liberals will have a new House leader, after Andrew Parsons bailed on the gig mere days before the House opened.

Co-operation would be a good thing — it’s also not the normal state of affairs in Newfoundland and Labrador’s House of Assembly, not by a long shot.

All in all, Monday’s a new day.

The jury’s still out on whether it will be governance in a new way.

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