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EXCLUSIVE: Bush Dumville breaks his silence on decision to leave the Liberal caucus

Bush Dumville in the Legislature in February, 2018.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Bush Dumville in the Legislature in February, 2018. ©THE GUARDIAN - Teresa Wright

It was 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning last week when Bush Dumville walked into the Shaw Building unannounced, holding his letter of resignation from the Liberal caucus, ready to hand-deliver it to Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

“Give him hell,” the commissionaire said to Dumville as he let him through security.

Little did he know that Dumville planned to do just that.

Dumville finally broke his silence Tuesday in an exclusive interview with the Guardian. The West Royalty-Springvale MLA detailed the full account of events that led to his decision to resign from the government side of the house and sit as an independent last week.

Dumville has been an MLA for over 10 years, beginning his term in office under former premier Robert Ghiz in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 and in 2015.

But, it was the lead-up to the 2015 provincial election that proved to be the beginning of the end of Dumville’s stomach for remaining part of the current Liberal team.

RELATED: MLA Bush Dumville resigns from Liberal caucus to sit as independent

In January 2015, he learned he would be challenged for the nomination in his district – something that raised many eyebrows at the time. Dumville and his supporters were convinced the party was supporting his challenger, Windsor Wight.

So, Dumville says he decided to visit MacLauchlan at his home. At that time, it was still unclear what riding MacLauchlan would run in. In fact, he still hadn’t been officially declared leader of the Liberal Party, although he was the only candidate.

The two went for a walk with MacLauchlan’s dogs, when Dumville says he offered to step aside and let MacLauchlan run in his district. MacLauchlan told him it was a generous offer, he had other plans.

“Then a few minutes later, we were up a little way around the corner and he said, ‘By the way Bush, you will not be in cabinet.”

He took this as a blow.

TIMELINE:

Jan. 2015 – Dumville says he was told by Wade MacLauchlan he would never be in cabinet

March 6, 2015 – Dumville wins contested nomination in District 15 West Royalty-Springvale

April 6, 2015 – Provincial election is called

May 4, 2015 – Liberals win third term government with Wade MacLauchlan as new premier

Feb. 2017 – Dumville tells the premier he will resign from caucus but reconsiders

Jan. 25, 2018 – Founding meeting for new District 15 Brackley-Hunter River

Jan. 31, 2018 – Dumville resigns from Liberal caucus

“How would it make you feel if a premier told you wouldn’t be in cabinet before you were nominated? That’s when something snapped inside. Then I was running, and I was running hard.”

He spent the next two months working his district to win the Liberal nomination, which he did on March 6, 2015, by 11 votes. He says 600 people attended this meeting, of which 255 people voted.

One month later, MacLauchlan dropped the election writ, and Dumville was back on doorsteps to fight for re-election to the legislature, which he also accomplished.

Now he was a member of MacLauchlan’s caucus, where he says he never felt welcome.

His first dustup with the premier’s office came when he became one of three Liberal MLAs who ran for the role of House Speaker.

After he was quoted in a Guardian article about the race, Dumville says MacLauchlan’s chief of staff, Robert Vessey, chastised him for speaking to the press “without permission.”

“He said, ‘You’ve got a bad attitude,’ ” Dumville recalls, saying Vessey told him he had better go see the premier.

Dumville refused and told Vessey he would speak to the press anytime he wanted.

BUSH DUMVILLE AT A GLANCE

S. Forrest (Bush) Dumville was elected to the legislature in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011 and again in 2015.

Prior to entering politics, Dumville was a local businessman, community volunteer and a member of the RCMP. He has served for over 30 years with the Rotary Club of Charlottetown. He opened the Burger King restaurants in Charlottetown and Summerside.

He is past Master of the P.E.I. Masonic Order and a member of the Island Shrine Club and Philae Temple of Nova Scotia and P.E.I.


“After that, here’s Bush, sitting over there in the corner, being requested to hold the party line, vote on the party line, chair committees with never a thank you, nothing,” he said.

“I felt like a junkyard dog chained up in the corner… They just wanted me to be docile. They needed me to work and to vote their way.”

He was unhappy, but he stayed put, waiting for the right time to make a move.

“It’s hard to be in a situation where you’re not wanted, but I’ll be damned if I was going to quit over it.”

He cited several other incidents over the last three years that further convinced him to consider his options. The biggest came after Alberton-Roseville MLA Pat Murphy spoke out against school closures in February 2017 and was then promoted to cabinet.

Following this appointment, Dumville says MacLauchlan met with all his MLAs to “hand out little goodies.”

He asked Dumville to accept a position on a cabinet committee – which would give him a $6,500 boost to his salary, a fact he says the premier noted.

“I looked at him and said, ‘You’ve just made Pat Murphy a minister. Gave him a $30,000 or $40,000 raise and a car. I’m not really interested in a $6,000 consolation prize. Premier, I’m resigning from caucus.’ You should have seen his eyes.”

Dumville says the premier asked him to reconsider, which he did.

RELATED: Dumville decision disappoints elector

Then, earlier this month, after once again being overlooked in a January cabinet shuffle, Dumville says he decided to finally follow through with his resignation after what he believes was a deliberate attempt by the party to once again move in on his district.

During a founding meeting for his newly redrawn District 15 to elect a new executive, two positions were contested, and the person Dumville was supporting for president did not win.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was that farce of a meeting, pulling the same old tricks that they did in 2015,” Dumville said.

“These things happen in Russia and in Third World countries, and who would ever imagine that a learned person would ever resort to these types of tactics.”

That’s why, last Wednesday, he walked into the premier’s office and handed him his letter of resignation.

“I said, ‘I’ll be a federal Liberal in good standing. I’d like to be a provincial Liberal in good standing, however I’ll not be in your Liberal caucus because I do not support you.’”

He then dismissed himself, describing the feeling of walking back down the hallway to “walking the gauntlet.”

Last week, MacLauchlan dismissed the notion his party was behind contested executive positions. He said he expects his caucus MLAs to respect the values of inclusiveness and democracy and that it "has been clear for some time that Mr. Dumville has struggled to share the values of our Liberal caucus and Liberal party."

"It's an open and inclusive and democratic process, and I'm delighted to walk into a meeting and find the hall full or to see them putting out additional chairs," MacLauchlan said last week.

Going forward, Dumville says he will remain an “independent Liberal” until the next election, explaining that he owes it to his constituents to serve out his mandate as a Liberal.

But when asked if he would consider running for another party in the next election, he suggested he’d be willing to examine his options.

“As we get closer to an election, people will be looking for their nominees and then I’ll have to make a decision if there’s a nomination open somewhere for me in some party. I don’t know.”

One thing is certain, Dumville says he will not resign his seat, vowing to use his time in the legislature in the spring to challenge the premier on questions of character and ethics.

His biggest concern is that his constituents could suffer now that he is no longer in government and left on poor terms.

Dumville admits the last week has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. This may be the end of my political career or it could be the beginning of my political career. Only time will tell.”

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