“I offer my apology to the House, Mr. Speaker.”
With that simple statement from Mount Scio MHA Dale Kirby, the months-long tale of allegations of harassment, bullying and intimidation among members of the House of Assembly came more or less to a close.
Kirby gave the statement on Wednesday afternoon at the behest of Speaker Perry Trimper, after MHAs voted on Tuesday evening to have Kirby and Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce apologize and undergo workplace sensitivity training.
For now, the pair will sit as Independent members, outside the Liberal caucus.
“There’s been no discussion from me about bringing them back into caucus,” Premier Dwight Ball told reporters outside the House of Assembly.
“It was an emotionally charged room in there for most of (Tuesday) and it’s had a big impact on all MHAs in that legislature, primarily on those who brought the allegations forward and those respondents.”
During the heated debate on Tuesday, Joyce brought forth allegations of leaked cabinet documents, without evidence on the House floor.
Ball says he has spoken with Placentia West-Bellvue MHA Mark Browne, who was accused of leaking documents, and members of his cabinet, and says he doesn’t believe the allegations to be true.
While Kirby and Joyce offered short apologies, it is what was asked of them by MHAs.
Ball says the short apologies brought forth as a punishment speak to the need for more clarity around the outcome of these types of investigation.
“We need more prescriptive, more well-defined recommendations,” he said.
“We need stronger recommendations, not so vague. If this was in a courtroom, you wouldn’t see that type of broad recommendations. These are some of the things we need to discuss as we strengthen the process.”
The Privileges and Elections Committee is expected to bring forth a new legislature-specific harassment policy in the near future, which could help establish a better process than has been seen over the last seven months.
Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway, one of the complainants against Kirby, says he’s relieved the process has finally come to an end.
“There is a need for change in this culture. I see that change is starting to happen,” said Holloway.
“In 2018, no matter where you work, we can never tolerate harassment, intimidation and bullying in the workplace. We deserve to have a better workplace in the House of Assembly. I think public servants deserve that, but the people in the community also deserve that.”
Kirby and Joyce declined to speak with reporters on Wednesday.
For now, things can begin to return to normal at the provincial legislature.
Some legislation has been delayed being brought forward as a result of the months-long dispute among MHAs, for fear of it being overshadowed by the hours of debate and focus on internal conflict.