Ford un­fairly pun­ished Michael Har­ris, who is too good to lose

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - LUISA D’AMATO

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.

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