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This article was published 12/10/2018 (429 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon's fate with the Tory caucus could come down to a vote among his colleagues this month after he made a sexually inappropriate comment to female legislative staff.
The Free Press has learned Graydon has already started lobbying his fellow Tory MLAs to ensure he can remain in caucus when the issue of discipline is put to a vote after the legislature resumes sitting following a week-long break.
This month, two female PC staffers attended a busy caucus luncheon where there were few chairs left in the room. A source said Graydon told one of the young women she could sit on his lap.
Another source said that the other woman reported Graydon's comment to a higher-up in the PC caucus. The issue was reportedly resolved within hours and to both women's satisfaction, the source said.
The Free Press repeatedly asked the PC caucus to comment on Graydon’s behaviour this week. On Thursday afternoon, communications officer Blake Robert replied by email: "(It’s) tough to rush an HR matter, but I’ll do what I can on my end."
Late Friday afternoon, PC caucus chair Wayne Ewasko provided a statement by email.
"It has come to our attention that an inappropriate comment was made to an individual at the Manitoba Legislature. The matter was dealt with immediately in accordance with policies and procedures that respect the impacted individual’s right to privacy and confidentiality, while also ensuring that appropriate measures are taken," he said.
"When inappropriate conduct occurs in the workplace, it becomes a human resources issue. It is confidential and requires the impacted individual’s consent to the release of information. We are committed to ensuring a respectful working environment for everyone at the Manitoba Legislature."
During the Free Press investigation into the matter, Premier Brian Pallister’s chief of staff, Philip Houde, appeared to be threatening the Free Press with legal action by informing the paper they had sent a copy of the reporter’s inquiries to their lawyer.
Graydon wouldn't answer questions in the legislature halls after question period Thursday.
The PCs have been outspoken about their "no wrong door" policy when it comes to reporting misconduct.
Ewasko referenced the policy in his statement, saying individuals can come forward with any concerns, without any fears of reprisal.
"Everyone deserves to know that they will be safe and respected in the workplace," Premier Brian Pallister told a news conference in August where it was revealed more than 500 government workers — most of them women — came forward this spring to report that they had been sexually harassed on the job.
"We really need to change the culture because people should not be afraid to report incidences of harassment," the premier said at the time.
This isn't the first time Graydon has been under the microscope over inappropriate comments he made this year.
In February, he apologized for calling asylum seekers "a drain on society" on Twitter and for retweeting posts that called Justin Trudeau a "scumbag" and "turdeau." Graydon underwent sensitivity training and limited his social media activity.
The opposition parties would not comment on Graydon's situation before the PC party officially responded, which happened late Friday.
The NDP caucus also had to consider the future of one of its caucus members in January 2017 when two sexual harassment allegations involving Mohinder Saran and female staffers became public. Saran denied any wrongdoing.
NDP MLAs voted to suspend, then later expel Saran from caucus. He still represents The Maples as an independent.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 9:50 PM CDT: Fixes typo
9:55 PM: Fixes typo.