A Tory MLA accused of sexual harassment and found guilty of repeatedly breaching respectful workplace policies will remain in the Progressive Conservative caucus.
Wayne Ewasko, the Tory caucus chairman, told reporters Wednesday that Rick Wowchuk — who was re-elected in the Swan River riding in last week’s provincial election — will not be booted from the governing council.
"Mr. Wowchuk put out a statement after the CBC broke the story, so to speak. He admitted to doing some wrong things and... he had stated that he’s gone through some sensitivity training," Ewasko said.
Prior to the election, a former constituency assistant accused Wowchuk of showing her a picture of naked women on his cellphone, as well as making inappropriate comments of a sexual nature.
Wowchuk has since apologized for his actions, saying he regrets if he made anyone uncomfortable.
Ewasko declined comment Wednesday when asked what led to the Tory caucus decision.
In a scrum with reporters, Ewasko alluded to an earlier determination made by caucus leadership to allow Wowchuk to run under the PC banner in the 2019 election, after the legislative assembly found he broke the rules.
Wednesday’s meeting marked the first time the entirety of the PC caucus met to discuss Wowchuck’s fate.
Ewasko said voters elected Wowchuk to represent them in Swan River after the issue went public, adding, in his opinion, Wowchuk "ran a fantastic campaign."
The caucus chairman wouldn’t elaborate on why the Tories allowed Wowchuk to stay, even though last year they ousted MLA Cliff Graydon, who faced allegations of sexual harassment.
Graydon also apologized and underwent sensitivity training after the accusations came to light. He ran for re-election as an independent, finishing third in Borderland.
"There’s different circumstances, different situations that happen all the time in not only this fantastic workplace, but others as well," Ewasko said. "And again, I would be going against the policy if I spoke about any specific situation or event or anything like that."
Attempts to reach Wowchuk for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Graydon said while he wasn’t overly familiar with the facts of the Wowchuk case, he hoped the decision was a sign the PCs have changed their internal policies.
"It might be that they’ve come to their senses a bit. You can call it a double standard or not, but maybe they’ve refocused on what’s real and what’s not real... I haven’t seen the investigation on Mr. Wowchuk, but if there was a double standard, then so be it," Graydon said Wednesday.
"If you (Free Press) are using my name, I would appreciate if you wouldn’t say, ‘He’s the person who was kicked out for harassment,’ because that harassment was bull—-t and I’m prepared at this point now to look at defamation."
When asked what message the decision to keep Wowchuk in caucus sends to victims of sexual harassment, Ewasko doubled down, saying the PCs implemented a "no wrong door" policy for complainants.
"There was a culture of cover-up under the previous government. We’ve got a culture of being open, being honest and (having) ‘no wrong door’ policies. So that we can have those people who have had any type of complaints... bring it forward and be confident that we’re going to keep that confidential and move things forward through a process," Ewasko said.
— with files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.