The Speaker of New Brunswick’s legislature is being asked to apologize and take anti-harassment and sensitivity training after a harassment investigation.
The province’s Legislature Administration Committee voted along party lines Friday to sanction Speaker Chris Collins after concluding, based on a third-party investigation, that harassment allegations were founded in part.
The allegations and complainant’s name have never been publicly disclosed.
“Based on legal advice, the committee has determined that the appropriate sanctions in this matter are as follows: that Collins provide a written letter of apology addressed to the complainant within 30 days; and that Collins successfully complete anti-harassment and sensitivity training within 30 days,” the committee said in a statement after a 90-minute meeting.
“The committee is satisfied that these are the appropriate measures to take in the circumstances, and the committee considers the matter now resolved.”
His lawyer, T.J. Burke, said they would not be offering any comment Friday.
However, Green Leader David Coon said the committee had failed the victim.
“They did not provide a harassment-free, safe, workplace for an employee of the legislative assembly. Nor was effective and clear recourse provided for the victim by the LAC committee. We need to do both of those things,” he said following the meeting.
Coon said he could not agree with the recommendations because the Liberal members on the committee voted to withhold key information from being presented, including an 11-page report from the committee’s own lawyer.
“Secondly, they also opposed – that is, the Liberal members of the committee opposed – hearing what the victim told the investigator of his or her wishes for potential sanctions,” Coon said.
Coon said he believes the directive came from the premier’s office.
“This represents a level of political interference that has reached dizzying heights. It is corrupting the very work of the seat of our democracy,” he said.
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But a spokesman for the premier’s office denied Coon’s allegation of interference, and stressed that confidentiality had been maintained.
“The only people privy to any material presented at LAC would have been the members attending the meeting,” Carl Davies wrote in an email.
Progressive Conservative member Ted Flemming said the vote was five to three, with the five Liberals voting in favour of the decision, and the three opposition members against it.
“We were just shut out. It was a real we and they. We were provided practically nothing in terms of information,” Flemming said.
Premier Brian Gallant announced in early April that Collins was being suspended from the Liberal caucus, saying the premier’s office had been made aware of potential allegations of harassment in February, but the complainant didn’t come forward with allegations until two months later.
In March, the government announced a legislature subcommittee had been formed to develop a workplace harassment policy for the legislative assembly.
Progressive Conservative member Pam Lynch is on that committee, but says they have yet to meet.
“It is frustrating. I was appointed to the committee and I expected we would meet long before this and we haven’t,” she said.
In May, Collins announced he would sit as an Independent while pursuing a case of libel and slander against the provincial government.
First elected to the legislature in a 2007 byelection, Collins had previously served three years as a Moncton city councillor. He was briefly minister of local government under former Liberal premier Shawn Graham, and was elected Speaker after the Liberals returned to power in September 2014 under Gallant.
New Brunswickers go to the polls Sept. 24.