Ford unfairly punished Michael Harris, who is too good to lose
So, Doug Ford, please tell us:
What, exactly, did Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris do that was so terrible, he deserved to be kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus?
Record reporter Greg Mercer has now viewed a transcript of the six-year-old BlackBerry Messenger conversation between Harris and an unidentified woman. Party leadership used that conversation as its justification for dropping the two-term MPP and barring him from running for re-election.
Mercer’s story makes the following points clear:
• The woman never worked for Harris, and she didn’t work for the Conservative party at the time.
• The woman was the more sexually aggressive of the two. She told Harris he was one of the more attractive members of caucus. She said there was a “long list” of people with nude pictures of her. She told Harris: “You’re obviously drunk and I wouldn’t want to take advantage of you.” (Harris was out having drinks with friends after a concert).
• Harris and the unidentified woman kept the conversation in the realm of cordial, flirtatious banter.
• The two did not speak again.
• The woman never complained about Harris.
• The incident was reviewed in 2013 by party officials who deemed it a non-issue.
Let’s be clear: For workplace harassment to have occurred, there would have to be 1) a situation of working together, and 2) vexatious, unwelcome comment or conduct against a worker.
In this case, it’s not a workplace. Nor vexatious. Nor unwelcome.
There’s nothing to see here. Yet the original statements made by the party in April, when Harris was ousted, definitely suggested something of a harassing nature had happened.
At the time, party caucus chair Lisa Thompson said that a “written complaint from 2013 by a former intern about how she had been passed over for employment” had prompted the party to call an "urgent meeting" with its Provincial Nominations Committee, which “reviewed the evidence and unanimously decided to disqualify the MPP” from being a candidate in the June election.
What a smear job.
The term “former intern” made it sound as if she was Harris’ intern. She wasn’t.
The reference to a “written complaint” made it sound as if the woman was complaining about Harris. She wasn’t. She was complaining about the party not giving her a job.
The allegation that the nomination committee unanimously decided to turf Harris is disputed by one of its members, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett. Barrett said the committee didn’t recommend this, unanimously or otherwise. Instead, the decision to dismiss Harris came from the party’s leadership.
For what? Having a few drinks and flirting with an acquaintance? If that’s a firing offence, most of Ontario’s workers would be unemployed.
Harris’ dismissal solved a problem for Ford, who, we’re
told, was under pressure to find a spare riding for Mike Harris Jr. (son of the former premier) after Junior lost his bid to run for the Tories in Waterloo riding.
But it created a problem for the rest of us, who will miss the ousted Harris’s hard work and effective representation. One hopes he’ll find a way to return to politics, and soon.