March 1, 2018 4:27 pm
Updated: March 1, 2018 4:34 pm

Ontario NDP leader’s chief of staff resumes duties after Manitoba tickling scandal accusations

Michael Balagus, who also served as former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger's chief of staff, has resumed his duties in Andrea Horwath's office.

File / Global News

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says her chief of staff will be resuming his duties after he was put on leave last month.

Michael Balagus was accused of not taking seriously sexual misconduct allegations while he worked as former Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger’s chief of staff.

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“It is a chief of staff’s responsibility to ensure that employees are able to work in a safe environment. Michael recognizes and takes responsibility for the fact that the systems in place at the time let these women down,” Horwath said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s chief of staff put on leave amid Manitoba tickling scandal

“Michael and I have spoken extensively on this issue, and I know that he is genuinely committed to continuing our work of ensuring that all staff, managers and elected officials are able to do their important work in an environment that is free from harassment in any form. I’m confident in Michael’s ability to lead our team and I’ve asked him to resume his duties.”

In February, several women came forward alleging former Manitoba finance minister Stan Struthers’ tickled and groped them. In each case, the women said when they reported the behaviour, they were told to suck it up.

Struthers, who was in cabinet for more than a decade, apologized for any interactions that made people feel disrespected or uncomfortable.

READ MORE: More women speak out about former NDP minister Stan Struthers, call him ‘Tickle-Me Stan’

In a statement issued Thursday by Balagus on Thursday, he said officials “owed them better.”

“I must take my share of responsibility for the fact that proper systems were not in place and that these women were left believing they weren’t listened to, and that they had no recourse. I apologize to them, and to everyone on our team for this,” he wrote.

“Events in Manitoba underline that these issues require our full attention and our full commitment. Every person who works on our team deserves to be respected at work, and to be listened to when they advance concerns and issues – and these events have reinforced with me my personal responsibility in my role as chief of staff to ensure this is always true.”

READ MORE: Stan Struthers apologizes for allegedly tickling a female coworker

Meanwhile, Horwath said she has been working with Balagus to strengthen the Ontario NDP’s workplace policies.

“Over the last year, we’ve implemented an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training program that all staff, managers and MPPs have taken,” Horwath wrote.

“I’m committed to continuous improvement, and have initiated an independent review of all our policies and procedures to ensure no person in our organization ever feels unsupported in reporting concerns

— With files from The Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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