The Paul Connolly Affair

Speaking of the Legislative Assembly of PEI, while I cannot recall any Member of the Legislative Assembly, or member of the public at large, being imprisoned by the Assembly, during our 26 years living here, there was the affair of December 30, 1999 when Leader of the Opposition Paul Connolly was suspended from the Legislature for five days.

Mr. Connolly had proposed a motion regarding Child Maintenance Support:

BE IT RESOLVED that the matter of financial support to Island children by their non-custodial parents (child maintenance support), be REFERRED to the Standing Committee on Social Development for study and review, and that affected families be given an opportunity to present their views and concerns to the Standing Committee.

The motion was defeated, Mr. Connolly was incensed, tipped over his desk, and the Speaker “named” him, instructing the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove him:

Speaker: Please leave the floor immediately. Sergeant-at-Arms remove the Honourable Member.

Leader of the Opposition: I’m doing everything I can to contain myself.

Speaker: I ….. wait until he leaves. Remove the Honourable Member please, immediately.

An Honourable Member: Get out.

Speaker: Honourable Members, I have named the Honourable Member. I’m asking for a Motion that the Honourable Member be suspended for a period of time from the Legislature.

Several Honourable Members: Agreed

Once Connolly was removed, Pat Mella, at the time Minister of Finance, rose on a point of order, and described what had happened:

Hon. Pat Mella (PC): Eventually he did, that’s true. But in the…in going from the House he tipped over another chair. He obviously… I know he was very upset, but we have to have some decorum in the Legislative Assembly. This is a serious….what if he had thrown something. Like I don’t think this a verbal outburst, I know that there are…. I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be harder penalties perhaps for verbal outbursts as well, but I don’t see this as the same thing. And I think that we should…I think I’ll let the Premier speak to this but I think that we should ask for the penalty for the member, and I don’t think we should try to argue that there are similar things. I’ve been in the House since 1993, apart from the bombing, I have never seen physical… such a physical action with inside the Legislative Assembly. I think it’s a serious offense. And with all due respect to the member, I think that we have to do something about it.

Ms. Mella subsequently moved that Connolly be suspended for 5 days, and that motion was carried.

Paul Connolly was, by almost every report, a skilled and effective legislator, and his outburst seems to have been completely out of character. The following day the CBC reported that he had formally apologized:

As an MLA for 17 years, I have enormous respect for the Legislature. Again, I regret my actions of Tuesday evening. I should not have allowed by anger at the Government’s lack of responsiveness to overwhelm the decorum which must govern our activities as Members of the Legislative Assembly,” he said.


Alexander O'Neill's picture
Alexander O'Neill on May 10, 2019 - 21:11 Permalink

“ apart from the bombing” just like how reporters had already had their stories written about it what a nice quaint election we just had, without even remembering the “apart from the bomb threat“ part

Bruce Brown's picture
Bruce Brown on May 11, 2019 - 17:51 Permalink

It's HARD. It's just hard to be a MLA in a very small province when you know everyone. I wish people understood this but alas they don't seem too in the age of social media. Much respect to both sides in this snapshot of legislative history. I often think of a reporters comment about Island politics during the confederation conference. "It's hard to be a canoe with a steamship engine on top"