Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker was kicked out of the P.E.I. legislature Wednesday after he refused to withdraw statements calling the level of debate in the house this fall “a farce”.
Speaker Buck Watts had Bevan-Baker removed after he refused to withdraw the comment, which Watts ruled was unparliamentary.
It all happened in what was already an uncharacteristically dramatic close of the fall sitting, with amendments being made to the Water Act right up until the final few minutes before the house closed for the season.
Bevan-Baker tried to use a procedural tactic to send two bills – the Water Act and the Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act – back to the house for further debate.
He then levelled some strong criticism at his fellow MLAs, saying he felt the level of debate on these bills had been discouraging.
“We were given the sacred trust to bring forth strong and meaningful legislation that will enhance government transparency and accountability and that will protect our Island’s most precious resource, water, and we turned that debate at times into a farce,” he said in the legislature.
“It was just a dramatic range of partisan posturing from where I’m sitting,” he added, saying he felt many MLAs had not properly familiarized themselves with the legislation.
“The official Opposition renounced its responsibility to hold government to account and government shamelessly used its majority in the legislature to override amendments without even considering whether those amendments may enhance the legislation.”
Government House Leader Richard Brown took strong issue with this, calling his language and the message behind it unparliamentary.
Watts agreed, asking Bevan-Baker to withdraw his statement.
But Bevan-Baker doubled down.
“I will not withdraw my remark, Mr. Speaker. I think, at times, yesterday the display of the government side was indeed farcical.”
Watts asked a second time for Bevan-Baker to withdraw the comment. Bevan-Baker again refused.
That’s when the speaker asked for a motion to have him removed. Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac moved the motion, which was seconded by the premier, and the Green party leader was escorted from the chamber by the sergeant-at-arms.
Afterward, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said he felt the whole episode was “an act that went too far”.
“We had major bills – the Water Act, the Lobbyist Act, Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act – these protect our water, protect the public service… and they promote transparency,” MacLauchlan said, noting the bills were debated for many hours each and that amendments were made to make them stronger.
“To come to the end and use the language that was used today, that insults the work of all of these people that contributed to this and that, I would say, insults the traditions of parliamentary democracy on Prince Edward Island.”
Opposition Leader James Aylward said he found Bevan-Baker’s assessment of the Opposition’s work disappointing.
“There were some important bills that came to the floor, we had some extremely substantive debate,” he said.
“I don’t appreciate that the leader of the third party disrespected our caucus. I do hope that he will apologize to the speaker and then we can move forward.”
After the house closed, Bevan-Baker said he had not planned to get himself removed but says he did consciously use the word “farce”.
He pointed out it has been used previously in the legislature without being ruled unparliamentary.
Despite the fact this session saw a lot more substantive debate on legislation than in years past, Bevan-Baker said he believes his MLA colleagues should be better prepared for discussion on laws that government brings to the floor – something he believes just isn’t currently happening.
“I think this legislature can and should do better when it comes to legislation,” he said.
“This is, to my mind, what the core of our elected work is – to be good legislators. And I’m sorry to say I don’t see that in every member of that house.”