Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie says he’s not undermining his own Code of Conduct complaint against Premier Dwight Ball by making his complaint public from the outset.
One of the primary critiques of the investigative process surrounding complaints against MHAs Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby throughout 2018 was that the process unfolded in public, with no confidentiality for the complainants or the accused.
While Crosbie has been critical of the previous process, he says it’s different this time around.
“There is a difference in the nature of the allegations. Bullying and harassment allegations are generally believed to be best dealt with in a confidential way. Here we have allegations of ethics breaches which have to do with coaching witnesses in the process,” said Crosbie.
“Both parties to those allegations have made public statements, of their own motion. This is a very different situation.”
PC MHA Tracey Perry’s complaint against Eddie Joyce also saw each element of her complaint take place in public on the floor of the House of Assembly, which did merit a full investigation. Perry is not named in her complaint report, as a measure of confidentiality from Commissioner of Legislative Standards Bruce Chaulk.
Crosbie’s complaint has to do with allegations made on the floor of the House of Assembly by Joyce on Dec. 3, who claimed Ball had discussed the harassment allegations against him while the investigations were ongoing.
Crosbie alleges Ball “coached” Joyce throughout the process. Crosbie says if Ball coached Joyce, it would undermine the investigations, which saw Joyce and Kirby apologize to the House of Assembly.
“These allegations and the response to it raise grave ethic breach issues by the top official in the province,” said Crosbie.
“The public has a right to know that appropriate investigations are being undertaken to vindicate the process that we went through in the House for months.”
Both Ball and Crosbie spoke about the allegations from Joyce with reporters on Dec. 3, when Ball said he did speak with Joyce and some complainants while the investigations were ongoing.
Crosbie says he made the allegations almost six weeks after the incident, as it took time to understand the full nature of the issue. He says the timing of the complaint has nothing to do with the ongoing Topsail-Paradise byelection.
Crosbie says he’s not sure what the consequences would be if Ball is found in an ethics violation.
Commissioner for Legislative Standards Bruce Chaulk says it’s too early to say whether there’s anything to investigate in relation to the complaint. One of the complicating factors is the question of jurisdiction – Chaulk might not be able to launch any kind of investigation.
“The Speaker has jurisdiction over things that are in debate. There’s privilege for people that are in debate,” Chaulk said.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression, ‘Say that to me outside.’ You say the same thing outside the House, there are different consequences. I have to figure out what’s being said and whether I have the jurisdiction to even look at it.”
In a statement, Ball said he hopes the people of the province see the complaint as Crosbie playing politics.
“I encouraged both complainants and respondents to be complete in their submissions to the commissioner of legislative standards, and today, Ches is taking issue with that,” read Ball’s statement.
“We are more than a month removed from one of the most challenging sessions of the House of Assembly — a session where all members recognized the need to work together to advance the needs of the people of the province. What Ches has done today does not contribute to collaboration, nor does it advance the priorities of the people we are supposed to serve.”