N.B. opposition calls premier’s handling of harassment allegations ‘deeply troubling’
New Brunswick’s official opposition leader is calling the premier’s handling of harassment allegations against the Speaker of the New Brunswick Legislature “deeply troubling.”
On Thursday night, Premier Brian Gallant announced Chris Collins had been suspended from the province’s Liberal caucus, pending an independent investigation, for allegedly harassing a former legislature employee.
“As a result of the allegations we will be taking action without delay,” Gallant said on Thursday.
Gallant said his office learned about the allegations on Feb. 17 but that staff had been made aware of “personality conflicts” between Collins and the former employee.
In a media release, Opposition leader Blaine Higgs points out Gallant has not revealed when his office first “learned there was an issue.”
“Brian Gallant has not explained why his office transferred the employee but took no further action,” Higgs said.
“Brian Gallant reconvened the legislature on March 13 with the speaker in the chair knowing since February 17 that these allegations existed.”
WATCH: Speaker of New Brunswick legislature booted from caucus over harassment allegations
Higgs adds the Gallant government closed the legislature two weeks early without disclosing the allegations.
Green party Leader David Coon said in a statement Friday that it is the responsibility of the legislative branch of government to determine the course of action in response to harassment allegations.
He said he wrote to Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc, vice-chairman of the legislative administration committee, to request that he convene a meeting of the committee Friday by teleconference.
LeBlanc issued a statement late on Friday stating that the committee will meet on April 9.
“The all-party Legislative Administration Committee is responsible for all matters relating to the Legislative Assembly. The Committee includes members from the Liberal, Green and Progressive Conservative parties and is the appropriate body to address these matters,” LeBlanc wrote.
“I have full confidence that the members of the Committee will take appropriate steps to ensure this matter is resolved appropriately, and that due process is followed.”
Collins did not respond to a request for comment.
He has served as an MLA since 2007, when he won a by-election held to fill a vacancy in the constituency of Moncton East.
The former minor soccer coach lost his son Sean in 2007 to a cancer-related illness, and is a board member of Advocacy for Canadian Childhood Oncology Research Network.
The next general election in New Brunswick is slated for Sept. 24.
With files from The Canadian Press and Alexander Quon,
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