The House of Assembly is more than a place where laws are made. It is a debating forum where the people’s issues are supposed to be given light by their elected representatives. The cut and thrust of debate often has a contentious quality. It is the Speaker’s role to ensure that it is conducted in an atmosphere of decorum, failing which the disrespectful (including any who fail to comply with a ruling by the Speaker) are punished.For this reason the Speaker, though an elected partisan, must be one capable of rising above partisanship. He must possess a good intellect, an ability to listen to the arguments of all parties and be capable of rendering a fair judgement. In short, he must be one who is not possessed of an ‘apprehension’ of bias.
In the case of the Member for St. John’s Centre, the charge was not one that arose in the heat of debate. It was raised in a Statement by one, no less than the Minister of Justice. Darin King confirmed that this hatchet job was not only malicious; it was determinedly so. The Minister charged that Rogers was a member of the Facebook group “Kathy Dunderdale must GO!!!” in which, according to CBC, “users had posted comments containing death threats against the Premier”. We are talking “Facebook”, which like many other social media is a constant source of hacking and impersonation. Even this scribe had his Twitter Account hacked; imagine what a target are the social media accounts of elected Members!Anyone who is even is peripherally familiar with social media, would have to weigh in favour of the Member on the basis of her own simple denial. What is more, even had even the Member acknowledged that she was a voluntary member, which she did not, she could not be faulted because some of participants in the group chose to be stupid or worse. That the Speaker chose to demand an apology from the Member, in the absence of a single shred of evidence that her membership in the group was voluntary rather than ‘volunteered’ by a person unauthorized, indicates a level of judgement, on his part, that is both baffling and disturbing, at the same time. Evidently, according to the Speaker’s twisted logic, if one Tory is a crook they must all be crooks! The concept of guilt by association is truly beneath contempt.
That the Speaker willingly engaged in a hatchet job on the Member for St. John’s Centre is a certainty. That he is a disgrace to the esteemed office of “The Speaker” is uncontestable. At least three other things are certain.First, this plot was hatched in the Premier’s Office. The Government is fearful of the NDP; it will do anything to cause one of that Party’s Members embarrassment, even if it risks embarrassing itself.
Second, Darrin King was given his instructions and like the weak Minister he is proving to be, was incapable of calming his First Minister. The lady is clearly possessed of a bunker mentality; one that is getting worse, as the political thermometer heats up. That a Minister of Justice, one whose role is to act with uncompromising integrity, a beacon for fairness and high principle, would engage in such a contemptible tactic, is tough to contemplate. Gerry Ottenheimer was a former NL Tory Leader, Minister of Justice and served as the Speaker for several years. Notwithstanding his years as a partisan, his service, as an impartial legislative ‘arbiter’, was beyond reproach. He must be rolling over in his grave at the antics of this lot.
Third, that the Speaker exhibited such a high degree of bad judgement, for which there is likely no equal in the annals of Hansard of this Province, he ought to step down, forthwith.Tuesday was not a good day for democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador.