Premier Robert Ghiz denies making threats towards MLA’s wife during heated debate
© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Opposition Leader Stephen Myers
Opposition Leader Steven Myers is calling on Premier Robert Ghiz to apologize for allegedly threatening the employment of a Tory MLA’s wife during a heated exchange in the legislature.
Tensions were running high during question period Wednesday when Opposition MLA James Aylward raised questions about a school principal that a group of concerned parents in Miscouche wants replaced.
The principal has brothers in high places — one is the deputy minister of education and another is the premier’s executive assistant.
Aylward said parents at the school claim the principal has used the phrase, ‘Do you know who my brother is?’ when confronted with their concerns over bullying and curriculum issues.
“Minister, does the principal have a brother in your department?” Aylward asked Education Minister Alan McIsaac.
That’s when Ghiz remarked from his seat: “Do you have a wife working in government?”
Myers was visibly upset by the comment and began to voice his concern, interrupting McIsaac, who was delivering a response.
“For a premier to make a threat like that,” Myers interjected, raising his voice.
Just as the two began to argue, Speaker Carolyn Bertram ordered McIsaac, who still had the floor, to sit down and she stood up.
“You can take this discussion outside the rail at some point, but we’re listening to the minister of education and early childhood development at this time,” she said sternly to Ghiz and Myers.
After question period, Myers raised a point of order, accusing Ghiz of threatening Aylward’s wife’s job. She works in the Innovation Department.
“I want an apology in this house, he yelled right across the floor at us,” Myers said.
“We cannot do our job if the premier of Prince Edward Island is going to be threatening the jobs of spouses on this Opposition.”
Ghiz later categorically denied making any threats.
“The only thing I was trying to point out was that pretty much every member of the legislature is somehow related to someone working in government or somehow connected with government, and I don’t think it’s fair to raise people’s names in the house that aren’t able to defend themselves,” Ghiz told reporters.
“It was a contentious issue to begin with, but bringing up personnel in different departments I don’t think is the appropriate way to go.”
Ghiz admitted he has previously named unelected individuals in the legislature, but now regrets doing so and believes strongly against the practice.
“I’m not saying the questions today were not legitimate, I’m saying I don’t believe people should be brought up that are unable to defend themselves.”
But Myers insists he believes Ghiz was trying to threaten and intimidate Aylward into backing off on the issue by bringing up his wife’s employment in the civil service.
“I totally took it as — he was either going to make life difficult for her or fire her. And that’s not acceptable,” Myers said.
“He’s been a premier for a long time, he’s been a politician for a long time. He should totally know better than to put himself in a position that there would even be a question of what his motives were.”