Last Week, Premier Andrew Furey made a political visit to the District of Lake Melville in Labrador. Photos of his visit quickly popped up on social media. From these pictures it was clear that Labrador MP Yvonne Jones joined Furey on his stops, as did Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster.
But there was one person noticeably absent: Lake Melville’s own representative, Perry Trimper.
It was a very odd omittance, considering that Furey had only recently announced that Trimper would remain in the governing Liberal caucus, despite many public calls for him to be removed. The controversy erupted when Trimper, referring to the homelessness crisis in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, suggested that those on the streets “chose” their lifestyle. Trimper apologized for his poor choice of words.
This latest controversy was compounded by last year’s voicemail fiasco, where Trimper accidentally recorded a conversation with an unidentified woman on the voicemail of an Innu Nation worker. In the recording, Trimper—referring to the Innu—tells the woman that “the race-card comes up all the time.” The woman in the recording, meanwhile, said “they have a feeling of entitlement.” Trimper, who was a cabinet minister at the time, also apologized after the audio was given to the media.
Last week, following Furey’s trip to Lake Melville, Trimper posted a surprise video to Facebook, saying he was leaving the caucus to sit as an independent immediately. More surprising was that Trimper pledged to run again in the next election as an independent, despite Premier Furey assuring the public that Trimper’s political career was “over.”
Shunned by Premier and Party
In his first interview since that Facebook video, Trimper told the Independent that Furey shunning him on his trip was the last straw. Not only was Trimper not invited to join Furey in his own district, he wasn’t even informed that Furey would be visiting at all.
“I didn’t know the trip was happening until I heard it from the public,” said Trimper. “So, it was very frustrating. I reached out to the Premier, hoped for a meeting, and it never happened.”
Trimper said that his discontent with the Liberal Party was building for a while. He said there were important political meetings that he was left out of intentionally.
“Whether it’s leaving you out of meetings, leaving you out of policy discussion; just leaving you out of the loop—it’s challenging,” he explained. “To me, it’s affecting the district.”
In his interview, Trimper also contradicted Furey’s previous statement that he would be leaving politics altogether. He expressed confusion about why the Premier would have made that assumption. All he told Furey was that he wouldn’t be the Liberal candidate in the next general election.
“I never said I was leaving politics,” Trimper said. “I never said that I wasn’t going to run. These are interpretations by the media or by others.”
When asked why Furey would publicly claim that he was no longer continuing his political career, Trimper responded: “you would have to ask him.”
The Lake Melville MHA has since had “limited” interaction with his former Liberal colleagues.
But feeling left out of discussions wasn’t the only reason Trimper had for leaving party politics. The Lake Melville MHA said that, as an independent, it would be easier to defend himself from “political opponents” who are out to undermine him and attack him personally.
“These past several months, it’s becomes increasingly apparent to me that that agenda has been completely hijacked by politics. That has contributed then to a feeling within my own party of frustration,” Trimper explained, referring to how others viewed him. “‘How do you work with this guy that’s so… troubled by others?’”
A Long-Running Feud
When pressed for details on who his opponents are, Trimper referred to someone who ran against him in the election of May 2019. It doesn’t take much to conclude he’s taking about Shannon Tobin, who ran as the PC candidate in Lake Melville against Trimper. Tobin has been a very outspoken critic of Trimper, especially online.
“I believe they know better, but their priority is to tear me down,” said Trimper. “Well, sitting inside a political party makes it harder for me to defend myself, and makes it more difficult for people to support me.”
Trimper specifically mentioned a time when he attended a funeral in Sheshatshiu and he alleges that Tobin posted on Facebook that he was offended to see Trimper there in attendance.
But Trimper has more than one outspoken critic. Many critics came out when the Lake Melville MHA was unsuccessful in obtaining funding needed to upgrade and fix Route 520, which is in desperate need of repair. Trimper feels many ignored the fact that the bids for the contract came in way over the estimate and chose to point the finger at him instead.
“The details of this were carefully explained to the public and, again, there’s a video posted [by Tobin] causing all kinds of bizarre accusations against my motives for doing this,” said Trimper. (The Independent could not verify the existence of the video in question.) He suggested that some people accused him of having a “hidden agenda” to tick off his own constituents by putting out a bad tender that was doomed to fail.
“Accusations like this I just find very distracting—and that’s just one example.”
When reached for comment, Tobin said he believes Trimper is trying to deflect blame away from himself. He also said the electorate will “see through” what Trimper is trying to do.
“It’s sad that we’re in this situation where we have an elected member of the House of Assembly, who’s been caught on tape saying, multiple, hurtful, things about Indigenous groups blaming someone other than himself,” Tobin told the Independent.
“I have no interest being dragged into this drama that’s been going on… I’m running to represent the people of Lake Melville and address the issues that matter to them. These social media things he’s pointing to, I think the people of the province will see through it.”
Calls for a Kinder, Gentler Politics
But Trimper is far from the only NL politician who gets “torn down” by political opponents. Trimper said he is often disheartened by how members of the PC and Liberal caucuses will bark at each other in the House of Assembly to score political points against each other. He believes there needs to be more objectivity and cooperation in politics in order to get issues resolved.
“If this is worth doing, we don’t need to insult each other,” said Trimper. “We should just be able to lay bare the facts and say ‘yeah, collectively, we need to fix this.’”
Asked about the two controversies that led to calls from the Innu Nation for his resignation, Trimper admits he made mistakes in how he spoke on those two occasions. He said it’s better to use those moments as opportunities to learn, rather than to tear each other down.
“What I would say is that… I’m not perfect. I would ask everyone… to look at [my] record; look at my intentions. If there is a word or a phrase that is causing concern—let’s talk about it,” stated Trimper.
“I believe that the path to reconciliation is not a smooth one, but you have to be committed to it. And if you stumble along that path, you’ve got to able to recognize that.”.
Photo: Perry Trimper in the House of Assembly on 19 April 2016. Screenshot via NL HOA on Youtube.
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