Tory MHA Sandy Collins is drawing fire after he challenged another MHA to a fight on Twitter last weekend.
The challenge - in the form of a proposed charity-boxing match - came as the PC Party was debating a resolution, which calls for a “zero-tolerance approach to bullying.”
Kirby said he was shocked.
“Kids are out there being brutalized, harassed and tortured in our schools, and these are the people responsible for fixing that? God help us,” he said. “He’s asking me to fight him, let’s be clear. Charity boxing match? Are you kidding me?”
It turns out Collins was absolutely kidding; he said after the policy session at the PC Party annual general meeting that the idea of a charity boxing match between him and Kirby was meant to be a joke.
“We were talking back and forth and he began to change the topic to violence and he brought up the fact that he was threatened in the House of Assembly. So I said in the spirit of all of this talk about violence, why don’t we do something for charity, a fundraising exercise and do something to raise awareness and cash,” Collins said. “I said it jokingly, of course, you know, just to lighten the mood because Dale tends to take a serious tone quite a bit. Not the funniest guy in the world.”
Collins seems to be referencing a charity-boxing match between Liberal MP Justin Trudeau and Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau earlier this year, which received widespread media attention.
But Kirby said the threat of violence in the House of Assembly was real, and came from Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy in early May.
“Jerome Kennedy basically challenged me to fight him in the legislature. He said, I’ll come over there and wring your neck, Kirby; you’re just a bluff. That’s all you are. Come on, let’s go, et cetera,” he said.
Kirby said at the end of the day, Kennedy actually came to his office to apologize for the comments.
“He came in to apologize, and I just said to him at the time, ‘well, whatever; I think this is really inappropriate for members of the legislature to be behaving in that way, and it really diminishes the work that we do here, but don’t feel that I’m intimidated by you, because I’m not.’”
Kennedy could not be reached for comment.
Bullying was a major topic of conversation at the PC party convention this weekend, after reports of a brutal incident in Blaketown where two girls allegedly attacked a third girl while they were surrounded by other students - many of then reportedly videotaping on their cellphones.
Nineteen-year-old Progressive Conservative delegate Nathan Whalen spoke during the party debate on advocating a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.
“It matters because I’m a young person myself,” he said. “Just having watched people just stand idly by and be bullied myself, it matters to me.”
Whalen said he’d like to see the schools taking a more “character-based education” approach in classrooms to help prevent bullying.
Collins acknowledged the cut-and-thrust of politics can get ferocious at times, especially in the House of Assembly and on Twitter, but he also agreed that public figures should try to set a positive example.
“As any public figure should, you should try to set an example, but again, recognizing a lot of the back and forth is all in good debate,” he said. “It sometimes goes off the rails, but again, I can only speak for myself and I figure I feel that I conduct myself in a responsible manner on Twitter.”
Kirby, meanwhile, said he was dismayed by the whole thing. He said last spring he introduced a motion in the House calling for anti-bullying legislation, but it was dismissed by the government.
“Bullying is violence, and these are threats of violence. I can’t be any more clear than that,” he said.
“How are we going to eliminate schoolyard bullying in Newfoundland and Labrador when the laws in Newfoundland and Labrador are made by schoolyard bullies?”