Embattled Tory backbencher a no-show at QP
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/04/2019 (1448 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Tory MLA who allegedly used sexual language in front of female staff was absent from the legislature Wednesday, leaving Manitoba’s premier to field questions about what one critic called an “opaque” investigative process into the backbencher’s behaviour.
Citing confidentiality laws, Premier Brian Pallister wouldn’t comment directly on allegations about Kildonan MLA Nic Curry, which were first published by the Free Press Tuesday. Curry has not responded to several requests for comment.
In a surprise move last week, the MLA, who was elected in 2016, announced he wouldn’t seek a second term.
Multiple government and party sources confirmed Curry was the subject of two separate complaints by female staff. it was alleged he had used sexual language in their presence.
The first incident dated back to January 2018 when Curry allegedly discussed his preferred method of masturbation with staff. The PC government conducted an internal investigation and the matter was resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction, sources said. It’s unclear what type of discipline, if any, Curry faced.
A second complaint against Curry was made following the tabling of the provincial budget on March 7. A staff member complained Curry had repeatedly talked about sexual matters in her presence. That complaint has not yet been resolved, sources said.
Pallister wouldn’t discuss details of the Free Press story, citing workplace safety and health legislation that prevents identifying any investigations or parties involved. He wouldn’t name Curry, but spoke broadly about his government’s anti-harassment stance.
“Our caucus has been told by me on more than one occasion that there will be no double standards within our caucus. I can only say that I’m disappointed whenever I hear reports of harassment. I’ve heard far too many of them,” the premier said.
“And I can tell you’ve we’ve instituted systems where we’re expecting that there may be more (complaints) and that’s good. Because people should not be afraid, when they are harassed in the workplace, to bring that concern forward.”
The government has promised to release annual statistics about the number of workplace harassment complaints.
At last count in August 2018, more than 500 Manitoba government workers — most of them women — had reported being sexually harassed on the job. One in 10 said they were currently experiencing sexual harassment and 90 per cent said they had experienced it on multiple occasions.
Pallister couldn’t comment on whether allegations involving Curry are being investigated.
“I can’t speak to that, and I can’t speak to or imply concerning any specific case, at this point. I can only say this to you: our government, under my premiership, has been very, very diligent in trying to change the culture here and throughout the government around reporting harassment,” he said.
“Part of dealing with those concerns is to deal with them respectfully, in a dignified way, considering the concerns that complainants might have for confidentiality and discretion in the way they’re dealt with,” he later added.
In question period Wednesday, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont criticized the Progressive Conservatives for quietly dealing with human resources matters involving their own party members. He again called on the government to install an independent conflict-of-interest and ethics commissioner, who has investigative power.
“The premier once again has an MLA whose disgusting behaviour would have been kept secret until it ended up in the newspaper. It’s pretty clear that the ‘no wrong door (policy)’ and sensitivity training isn’t working,” Lamont said in the house.
“The premier’s refusal to deal with these issues is sending a message to his own caucus, which is: as long as they keep their mouths shut, they can get away with it. How is this different than what the NDP did for so many years?”
After question period, Lamont wondered why Curry wasn’t expelled from caucus like Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon had been after facing allegations of sexual misconduct last fall.
“It’s not clear to me why he is being treated differently than say, Cliff Graydon, was treated. I don’t know why (or) if he’s getting the kid gloves treatment,” he said.
“And part of it is that the whole thing is sort of opaque. I have no idea how any of these decisions are made and that’s part of the problem.”
Pallister wouldn’t promise to release the results of any investigations involving MLAs. He said the move would require permission from all parties involved in the complaints, which wasn’t guaranteed. He emphasized his government takes each allegation seriously.