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Notley says external firm will examine complaints about staff, volunteer treatment

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley attends a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Monday, March 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh. JMC

Alberta’s Opposition leader has apologized to delegates during a speech to her party’s provincial council, saying complaints about treatment of staff and volunteers will be investigated by an external firm.

Rachel Notley also promised during her speech Sunday in Red Deer that an independent body will review the NDP’s human resources policies to ensure they have “robust policies and proper codes of conduct in place.”

Read more: Alberta NDP considering hiring third party to oversee internal harassment complaints

She further promised that all of the party’s executive staff, including herself, will take additional workplace training.

Notley told reporters last week that she and the party executive would recommend finding an independent body with expertise in harassment complaints, and the matter would be discussed by NDP leadership this weekend.

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At the time, she was responding to an internal letter leaked to media and written three months ago by 15 New Democrat constituency presidents and regional vice-presidents to Notley and the party executive.

The letter writers called for an independent third-party review of what they called a pattern of mistreatment of volunteers.

“Everyone, from volunteers to employees, to candidates, to the folks that happen to wander into a campaign office curious about what it is we have to say, all of those folks must be treated with the dignity and respect that we all care about so much,” Notley told her party Sunday.

“The fact is, though, it is clear that in some cases we have fallen short. We’ve heard concerns expressed about that, and as your leader I take responsibility for this and I apologize.”

Read more: Notley says Alberta NDP has ‘fallen short’ on respect for staff, volunteers

The letter also says there were concerns over how candidates were being picked in nomination races, with long waits for some candidates, leading to questions of possible favouritism.

When asked last week about whether a third-party harassment overseer would look back at past complaints — as asked for in the letter — Notley responded that she didn’t recall a request for a “retroactive review of any of the complaints.”

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In her speech Sunday, she appeared to indicate it would, and that concerns about candidate vetting would be addressed.

“We commit to addressing the outstanding matters that were raised by constituency associations in their March letter by the end of July, and will complete the vetting of candidates currently in the process by August,” Notley said.

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