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Unpacking the Politics: Fallout from Harassment on the Hill

Watch: The Ottawa Citizen’s parliamentary bureau chief Mark Kennedy discusses how the question of harassment on Parliament Hill played out last week and what it says about the relationship between the Liberals and NDP.

The political rift between the federal NDP and Liberals is widening with each accusation of the other using the recent allegations of personal misconduct on Parliament Hill for political gain.

In a discussion on The West Block with Tom Clark, Ottawa Citizen parliamentary bureau chief Mark Kennedy said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau  has to decide what to do next, including whether he should have his own internal investigation. Whatever the next step, Trudeau isn’t winning any political points so long as the issue remains front and centre, he said.

“This puts Justin Trudeau in a real pickle, clearly he has a real political dilemna her,” Kennedy said. “He has to find a way to make this go away so he can put the focus back on policy and not on his own problems internally.”

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READ MORE: MPs approved harassment policy in 2001, it just didn’t cover themselves

Earlier this month Trudeau suspended MPs Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews from the Liberal caucus following harassment accusations from two unnamed female NDP MPs.

Last week, the secretive Board of Internal Economy said it would not take up the harassment case; the two NDP MPs have said they do not want to take their allegations any further.

Meanwhile, Pacetti and Andrews are in political limbo as some of their colleagues express concerns regarding the process by which the two were ousted.

READ MORE: Experts say workplace culture of sexual harassment exists across Canada

As the uncertainty over how to handle harassment charges on the Hill continues, the Liberals and NDP are pointing fingers over each side’s handling of the situation.  NDP leader Tom Mulcair said his two female New Democrat MPs were re-victimized when his Liberal counterpart made the charges public.  Trudeau, meanwhile, contends he did not have a choice, saying the allegations are serious and he had a responsibility to act.

Kennedy said the political spat between the two leaders has become personal.

“I thinks this story has crystallized the discord and the dislike, if not the hatred, between the Liberals and the New Democrats,” he said.  “It is broader, because clearly they see themselves as competitors and the next election campaign voters are going to ask themselves, ‘If I don’t want to vote for [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper, who do I vote for? who represents my view of the world?'”
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