MLA’s fu­ture in doubt af­ter sex­ual com­ment

Tories to vote on dis­ci­plin­ing Gray­don /

Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - JES­SICA BOTELHO-URBANSKI jes­sica.botelho@freep­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @_jessbu

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 week­long 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 the other woman re­ported Gray­don’s com­ment to a higher-up in the PC cau­cus. The is­sue was re­port­edly re­solved within hours, to the 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 chair­man 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 wrote.

“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 le­gal ac­tion, in­form­ing the news­pa­per the Tories had sent a copy of the re­porter’s in­quiries to their lawyer.

Af­ter ques­tion pe­riod Thurs­day, Gray­don wouldn’t an­swer ques­tions about the in­ci­dent.

Gray­don was elected in 2007.

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 fear of reprisal.

“Ev­ery­one de­serves to know that they will be safe and re­spected in the work­place,” 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 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 for in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments.

In Fe­bru­ary, he apol­o­gized for call­ing asy­lum seek­ers “a drain on so­ci­ety” on Twit­ter, and for retweet­ing posts that called Prime Min­is­ter 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.

MIKAELA MACKEN­ZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Tory back­bencher Cliff Gray­don lis­tens dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod on Thurs­day. He later re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about his con­duct.

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