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ALAN HOLMAN: Dumville’s resignation no big deal

Bush Dumville in the P.E.I. Legislature, February 2018.
(The Guardian)
Bush Dumville in the P.E.I. Legislature, February 2018. (The Guardian) - The Guardian

The media coverage of his resignation was a bit excessive

BY ALAN HOLMAN

SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN

About the only thing that can be said about the Bush Dumville affair is that no one comes out of it looking very good - not the Premier, not Mr. Dumville, and not the media.

A week ago Wednesday, Mr. Dumville, the MLA for West Royalty-Springdale, met briefly with Premier MacLauchlan and handed in his resignation from the Liberal caucus. He says he’ll sit as an independent in the legislature.

He waited until this week to offer his reason for quitting. The Premier didn’t wait. He says Mr. Dumville quit because he was unable to get his preferred candidates elected to the district executive.

This, plus the fact, according to the Premier, Mr. Dumville is still upset he was challenged, and nearly lost, the district nomination for the 2015 election in spite of being the sitting MLA, having won the seat in 2011. Mr. Dumville won again in 2015, even though there was dissension in the Liberal ranks over his candidacy.

Instead of expressing regret over losing a member of his caucus Mr. MacLauchlan rubbed salt in Mr. Dumville’s wounds by issuing a statement saying, “Mr. Dumville has struggled to share the values of our Liberal caucus and Liberal Party.”

It was left to the District 15 Liberal Association to take the high road. It issued a statement saying it was “disappointed” that Mr. Dumville had left the party and offered their best wishes for his future endeavours. However, the Association noted that with the new electoral map, the boundaries of the district have changed, and Mr. Dumville’s departure “provides us the opportunity to start fresh.”

Last week, Mr. Dumville remained silent, but, this past Wednesday he finally offered his explanation for quitting, much of it confirmed what the Premier had already said.

Mr. Dumville said he became aware that he would face a challenge about a month before the 2015 nomination was held. As a sitting MLA he didn’t think he should have to run for the nomination and he felt he was being undermined by the party. He met with Mr. MacLauchlan in January 2015, before he had become the party leader and offered to step aside to give Mr. MacLauchlan a riding to run in. He was told that wouldn’t be necessary.

He also said Mr. MacLauchlan told him he would never be in cabinet. “How would you feel if a Premier told you you wouldn’t be in cabinet even before you were nominated?”

Being in cabinet was clearly important to Mr. Dumville. Following a cabinet shuffle in 2017 when he was again overlooked he was offered a position on a cabinet committee. He says he told the Premier, “you just made Pat Murphy a minister. Gave him a $30-40,000 raise and a car. I’m not really interested in a $6,000 consolation prize.”

Obviously, Mr. Dumville wasn’t a happy camper. Having been elected twice seem to give him a sense of entitlement that others didn’t share. This appears to be the underlying cause of his resignation.

He was a good, stolid, back-bench MLA, nothing more. The media coverage of his resignation was a bit excessive. The Guardian’s four-column headline two weeks ago might have been justified. But, Wednesday’s five-column headline, coupled with a five-column picture of Mr. Dumville and the story of his belated rationale for quitting occupying two-thirds of the front page was completely unjustified.

If The Guardian had found Doug Currie’s resignation reflected the same dissatisfaction with the Premier’s leadership as Mr. Dumville, and had they found a number of other Liberals across the province expressing similar views, then, and only then, the excessive spin they gave the story might have been warranted.

But, they didn’t, or they tried and they couldn’t. At best the Dumville story should have been relegated to page 3 and it should never have been given the over-the-top treatment it got.

- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca

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