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Investigation into PC Alberta harassment finds ‘no direct evidence’ that campaigns were targeted

Investigation into PC Alberta harassment finds ‘no direct evidence’ that campaigns were targeted - image
THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Dean Bennett

A month-long investigation into whether or not two Alberta PC leadership candidates were “intimidated and harassed” during a policy conference was completed Sunday.

Leadership candidates Sandra Jansen and Jason Kenney submitted formal complaints to the PC party’s Leadership Election Committee in early November.

In their complaints, the candidates alleged that during the party’s 2016 policy conference in Red Deer, they were intimidated and harassed.

A report released by the PC Alberta Board of Directors Sunday afternoon found that “although there were documented incidents of rude and ill-mannered behaviour during the Policy Conference in November, there was no direct evidence to prove that any particular leadership campaign had directed their supporters to target another campaign.”

“The party has taken these complaints seriously and from the onset has made it clear that this election will follow the utmost degree of fairness, openness and transparency,” Katherine O’Neill, PC Alberta president, said. “That is why an independent third party was hired to initiate a formal review into these allegations.”

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In the report, Chris Warren, PC Alberta’s legal counsel on this investigation, said he used interviews by third party investigator IRISS LLC to formulate his final recommendations.

IRISS LLC is a consortium of investigation and risk management professionals who specialize in public, private, government and military sectors.

The investigator also concluded that “with supporters being members of the public, there is very little control a campaign has over how certain members of the public, or supporters of a candidate, may view the topics of a campaign.”

READ MORE: Sandra Jansen withdraws from Alberta PC leadership race citing ‘hostile takeover’ 

Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen announced on Nov. 8 she was withdrawing from the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race due to unprecedented harassment related to her stance on issues including women’s reproductive rights and alleged a “hostile takeover” on the part of the PC party.

She said her experience at the party convention in Red Deer had left her “shaken.”

Less than two weeks later, Jansen crossed the floor to join the Alberta NDP.

Noted in the report, “Mr. Kenney recalled times walking down the hall at the hotel where the conference was held and heard people shouting expletives at him.”

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READ MORE: Alberta PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney hit with fine after breaking campaign rules

IRISS said it conducted interviews with Jansen, Kenney and PCAA volunteers who helped at the policy conference as neutral members, and supporters of both the Jansen and Kenney campaigns.

IRISS also reviewed Twitter posts as a part of its investigation.

O’Neill also stated that at least four female members talked to the investigators about how they were “verbally abused” at the conference because of their political views.

“No woman in our party should ever feel that her opinions are not valued or welcomed. I will personally work day and night as president to ensure our party is respectful and tolerant for all,” O’Neill said. “Harassment and intimidation has absolutely no place within our party. That behaviour is not tolerated in a workplace or a schoolyard, and should never be tolerated by PC Alberta. We need to raise the bar of political discourse within our party and the province.”

READ MORE: Former PC MLA Sandra Jansen joins Alberta NDP

PC Alberta stated moving forward, the board has committed to developing new processes to ensure people are held accountable for their behaviour.

“This could include hiring additional security at party events and finalizing the creation of a permanent, Code of Conduct Committee with the mandate to enforce the party’s Code of Conduct.”

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PC Alberta also stated they’re considering the idea of amending the terms and conditions for event participation that would require all attendees to abide by good behaviour and give event organizers the ability to eject individuals who are not behaving inappropriately.

This will be discussed at the PC Alberta board meeting in January.

 

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