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PAM FRAMPTON: Why Perry Trimper is still in caucus

['Environment Minister Perry Trimper']
Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper. — Telegram file photo

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer made headlines over the weekend when he told reporters on a flight to Vancouver that he would stand by controversial candidates running for his party in the federal election provided that they have apologized for past faux pas and taken responsibility for them.

Some opponents of Scheer were quick to pounce on social media, with Liberal cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan posting: “Scheer won’t do anything about his candidates’ hateful & homophobic statements because he has his own to apologize for.”

To be clear, Scheer said he would judge situations on a case-by-case basis, so he’s not promising amnesty for every candidate who turns out to have made racist comments or homophobic slurs in the past, but he noted: “I accept the fact that people can make mistakes in the past and can own up to that and accept that.”

But what about people who made mistakes last week? Should they still be welcome in the party fold?

Which brings us to Perry Trimper. And Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby.

Former Liberal cabinet ministers Joyce and Kirby were kicked out of the cosy confines of caucus after allegations of harassment and bullying surfaced last year, even before investigations into the complaints were carried out. (Joyce and Kirby were later found to have violated the MHA code of conduct — not for bullying or harassment, but for trying to exert political pressure on other MHAs in situations where it was inappropriate for them to do so.)

Premier Dwight Ball
Premier Dwight Ball

Ironically, it was Perry Trimper, then Speaker of the House, who called on them to apologize for their behaviour.

Now Trimper is on the hot seat, having inadvertently left voicemail for a member of the Innu Nation which contained references to the Innu “playing the race card” and thinking they had a “God given right” to access government services in their own language. Trimper had thought he had left a message and then hung up the phone, but listening to the audiotape, it soon becomes clear he was still being recorded as he launched into a conversation about the Innu with some unnamed woman.

“They have a feeling of entitlement,” she says to Trimper at one point.

“Yeah,” he says, “and the race card comes up all the time.”

Now, you’d think making racially charged comments — captured on tape — would be enough to get a cabinet minister ousted from caucus. I mean, it’s not like Trimper’s remarks were made at a frat party he attended as a university student. We’re talking last week.

But no, Premier Dwight Ball says it’s all about “second chances,” that Trimper deserves the opportunity to remain in caucus and go through the restorative justice process to find “a path forward.”

Let’s cut to the chase. If Ball tossed Trimper from the caucus now, it would be like whipping out the folded piece of cardboard from under the leg of your wobbly table. As a politically savvy colleague observed, Ball has a tenuous hold on power in the House with his slim minority government. Losing Trimper — or any member of caucus — would put the Liberals at a distinct disadvantage.

For Ball, it's a delicate balancing act, and the tight rope is wobbling.

With Trimper still in the fold, the Liberals have 20 MHAs, the Tories 15, the NDP three and there are two independents. If Trimper were given the heave-ho — with the potential for him to leave feeling disgruntled — a vote of no confidence on a key issue could result in the Liberals losing, thus triggering an election.

For Ball, it's a delicate balancing act, and the tight rope is wobbling.

In this era of truth and reconciliation, it may just be that some of Trimper’s Labrador constituents will have a hard time reconciling themselves with his comments and the attitudes they reflect.

Ball may be sincere in establishing a working group to combat prejudice against the Innu, but I think he’s being disingenuous if he suggests the need for restorative justice and reconciliation is the only reason why Trimper hasn’t been sent into exile.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: @pam_frampton


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