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Tory MHA confronts Newfoundland and Labrador premier

Progressive Conservative MHA Jim Lester speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.
Progressive Conservative MHA Jim Lester speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly. - David Maher

Dwight Ball says Jim Lester blocked his entrance into caucus room on Anti-Bullying Day

Tempers appear to have spilled into the hallways of the House of Assembly after a confrontation between Premier Dwight Ball and Progressive Conservative MHA Jim Lester.

Ball wrote a letter to Opposition Leader Paul Davis on March 1 after an incident near the doorway of the government caucus room at the House of Assembly.

Ball says he was confronted by Lester on the same day the government recognized Anti-Bullying Day.

“When I stepped outside, Mr. Lester was waiting to my right and he walked over and confronted me. He stood in front of me and the door — it’s close quarters,” Ball said.

“We had a discussion. He said he wanted to meet with his premier. I asked if he was blocking my entrance to the government caucus room and he said yes.”

According to Ball, Lester blocked the entrance until the premier asked Lester to step out of his way.

“It was inappropriate. … I personally did not feel threatened, but I’m sure other members, given the confrontation that took place, could possibly feel intimidated by what happened that day,” he said.

Lester was unapologetic on Monday, suggesting the premier is exaggerating the incident.

“As far as I’m concerned, it was a discussion between two sitting members, myself and the premier. I really consider it a non-issue,” Lester told reporters.

Lester maintains he did not physically block Ball from entering the room.

“When the premier pointed out that I was in his way, I stepped out of the way and he passed through unobstructed,” he said.

On Saturday, Opposition Leader Paul Davis, speaking on NTV, did not apologize on behalf of Lester for the incident, similarly downplaying what happened. Ball is drafting another letter to Davis, following his and Lester’s comments.

Ball says he hasn’t asked for a review of the incident from Commissioner of Legislative Standards Bruce Chaulk.

Chaulk is currently reviewing a different matter — what the PCs allege is a conflict of interest regarding a $400,000 forgivable loan awarded to Ball’s Jade Holdings through a federal-provincial affordable housing program. No timeline has been given for when the review will be completed. It will be up to Ball to release that report once it is complete.

PC leadership candidate Ches Crosbie declined comment on the incident, saying he isn’t familiar enough with what happened to comment.

Crosbie’s opponent, Tony Wakeham, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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