ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – A cabinet minister in Newfoundland and Labrador has been asked to step aside while an independent review looks into allegations of harassment against him, Premier Dwight Ball said in a statement Thursday.
Ball said in the brief announcement Wednesday that he asked Eddie Joyce to relinquish his duties as municipal affairs and environment minister while an external firm conducts the review.
Ball said that a formal complaint was lodged against a sitting Liberal member of the house of assembly by another Liberal MHA for alleged harassing behaviour, adding that it was not sexual in nature.
“I received a complaint from an MHA in my caucus about alleged undue behaviour exhibited by a member of my caucus,” he said in the statement. “I proactively addressed the public to make them aware of the situation and stress that the complaints were being taken very seriously. I also indicated that I would be working with the complainant to initiate processes in accordance with their comfort and wishes in a prompt manner. I commend the complainant for coming forward.”
Joyce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ball said a follow-up meeting was held with the complainant later Wednesday to determine the next steps.
He said Justice Minister Andrew Parsons will take over Joyce’s duties during the review. He also said Joyce has given permission to be identified in the review as the respondent, and that both Joyce and the complainant support it.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Ball said the allegations involved the cabinet minister’s conduct.
“This is not something that is sexual in nature. This is not a physical assault or physical in nature,” he said. “This is really about behaviour and conduct, but yet I do not want to dismiss the seriousness of any of those complaints.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Paul Davis raised questions in the house of assembly earlier in the week about whether the premier had received complaints of bullying or harassing behaviour in the Liberal ranks.
At the time, Davis said he had information from Liberal members that people feel bullied in the way members conduct their business. Ball said he wasn’t aware of harassment taking place within the party.