Mitchelmore says he's working through unpaid suspension, but unclear on why he voted against it

Cabinet minister Christopher Mitchelmore emerged Monday afternoon to front a Liberal press conference, sticking to a message track that avoided last year's public spending scandal over how a well-connected Liberal landed in an executive position at The Rooms. 

Mitchelmore, MHA for St. Barbe-L'Anse aux Meadows, took the blame for a scandal that saw Carla Foote, a long-time Liberal staffer with no marketing qualifications, moved into the high-paying job.

He apologized for it last December, but has said little about the penalty in the weeks since.

The House of Assembly voted to suspend him for two weeks without pay following that apology — a motion Mitchelmore voted against.

No other Liberal voted alongside him.

When asked Monday about how he'll spend those two weeks, which commence as the House begins its spring session in early March, Mitchelmore said he plans to continue working, but remained vague on details when pressed.

"I will be continuing to do the work that I've been elected to do as an MHA and as a minister," he said. "That's something that I was elected to do, and I continue [to do], as I've been doing since last year."

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He said delivering on a campaign commitment such as Monday's announcement — on a program offering free Metrobus passes to people on social assistance — fell under that umbrella.

"That's really important to me, is to continue to implement good policy decisions and get the work done,"  Mitchelmore told CBC's Anthony Germain.

He did not elaborate on the specifics of what he'd be working on during his suspension. "I will be abiding by the resolution that happened last year in the House of Assembly, and I have no further comment particularly on this matter," he said.

Mitchelmore was also unclear about why he voted against his own punishment in December, although he denied it was due to reasons related to personal finance.

Based on an MHA's annual salary, Mitchelmore will lose $3,600 before taxes.

"In the resolution itself I would have voted for the original motion that was put forward, because the commissioner of legislative standards, in the [Mitchelmore] report, cited a reprimand," he said. "The motion that I voted against had far stiffer penalties that was put forward. But I would have voted for the original."

Mitchelmore refused to comment further or clarify his reasoning.

His suspension will follow Foote's reassignment to the provincial Office of Public Engagement, which Premier Dwight Ball announced earlier this month. 

Foote will resign from the job that embroiled her in political turmoil — marketing director of The Rooms — this week, beginning her new role as assistant deputy minister for the office on Thursday.

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