A BC Liberal leadership candidate has fired one of his campaign staffers who was accused of verbally harassing another candidate’s campaign manager last week.
Diamond Isinger, campaign manager for Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee, said she had an “unexpected run-in” with four members of the Kevin Falcon team on Oct. 29.
The incident, which included sexual comments and sexually-suggestive jokes at her expense, left her “in tears,” she tweeted on Sunday afternoon.
“At the worst point, I was berated with misogynistic slurs and profane insults while being yelled at for 15+ minutes,” she wrote of the downtown Vancouver encounter.
“Despite trying to address this issue in private, I have no choice but to share this publicly to encourage accountability, due to the lack of action taken — with no apologies or consequences in the two days since this occurred.”
On Sunday, Falcon, a former provincial cabinet minister, tweeted he was “deeply troubled” by the allegations, and asked his campaign co-chair to bring in an independent third party to conduct an investigation.
On Monday, he tweeted that he had chatted with Isinger and apologized for his campaign team members’ behaviour — in particular, the actions of one individual.
“We’ve since spoken to that member, and based on the conversation, there was sufficient acknowledgement of Diamond’s account and I have ended the relationship between him and my campaign team.”
According to Isinger’s statement on Twitter, she was in a “busy public place” last Friday when the member of Falcon’s team called her extremely profane names “at top volume.”
He accused her of ruining their night and insisted she shake his hand to reconcile.
“When I refused to do so, he berated me again,” she wrote. “Others at the table let this continue for a long time while I burst into tears and cried openly.”
Isinger said she tried to “defend” herself repeatedly, and eventually, others at the table tried to de-escalate the situation by encouraging that staffer to “take a walk.”
Other patrons watched the confrontation unfold and a server asked Isinger if she needed help, she said.
Eventually, the group of five — four of whom were on Falcon’s campaign team — opted to visit another visit another venue, “leaving me there alone, distraught, without concern for my well-being,” she wrote.
She said the verbal attack is symptomatic of a “dangerous culture of bad behaviour amongst individuals (mostly men) who have no fear of repercussions.”
Since the disturbing incident, other BC Liberal leadership hopefuls have issued statements of support for Isinger.
Renee Merrifield, MLA for Kelowna-Mission, said she was “irate” and proud of Diamond for standing up.
“In doing so, she stands up against all misogyny, chauvinism, and discrimination,” Merrifield tweeted.
“Silence is complicity. I will not be silent or a keeper of the secrets. I stand with Diamond.”
Gavin Dew, a first-time political candidate and a career consultant, called the Falcon team members’ behaviour “BS” and said “this happens to women every day.”
Val Litwin, a former CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce and rookie political candidate, issued a video statement on Twitter. In it, he said, “It is time to say goodbye to misogyny, bullying, name-calling and discrimination,” and called on Falcon to demand the staffers abandon their party membership.
Even former BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark weighed in on social media.
Responding to Isinger’s tweet on Sunday, she said she was “utterly disgusted” by the alleged behaviour, “but also heartened” by Isinger’s decision to speak out.
“I’m so sorry this happened to you. By speaking out, you are helping to make change,” wrote Clark.
“We know it could just as easily have been any of us. Thanks for your courage.”
Read more: Women in politics — are we there yet?
Lee, who launched his leadership bid in June, thanked his fellow BC Liberals for supporting Isinger, and said the party will continue to call out such misconduct.
“This is part of a pattern of behaviour, by at least a few members within our party, an issue which also affects many other political parties in BC and Canada,” he wrote in a statement on Monday.
Lee urged the party to implement a code of conduct that “ensures the respectful behaviour of everyone involved in our rebuilding process.” He also requested the BC Liberals appoint a complaints officer to act as a confidential, respectful liaison independent of any leadership campaign influence.
“All major federal parties, including the Conservative Party of Canada and Liberal Party of Canada, have developed their own conduct-related policies,” he explained.
In his statement on Monday, Falcon said he intends to proceed with a third-party investigation into what happened, and he expects “full cooperation from everyone involved.”
“The incident laid out by Diamond is reprehensible and wrong,” he said. “These incidents are unfortunately all too common and I commend Diamond for speaking up on behalf of herself and all the women who have experienced these encounters.”
He hopes to work together, he added, to ensure women are never subjected to “this type of toxic behaviour” again.
A new party leader will be elected on Feb. 5, 2022.