Green Party Leader Elizabeth May orders investigation into allegations she bullied staff
'I do not regard having a backbone as a character flaw. I am staying on as leader,' says May
The Green Party of Canada has launched an investigation after allegations emerged that its leader Elizabeth May is guilty of workplace bullying and creating a toxic work environment.
"In light of the...groundless, but still serious, charges against me I asked the Green Party executive director and the others in the party to please put in place an independent inquiry so we can put this matter to bed for good," May told reporters in Ottawa.
The investigation will be carried out by a third party under the leadership of Sheila Block of the Toronto-based law firm Torys LLP.
According to a statement from the party, the inquiry will take from two to four weeks, after which a report will be released to the public.
The statement said that May asked the party to launch the investigation after the Toronto Star reported the allegations on Jan. 27, and the Hill Times did the same on Jan. 29.
The allegations come from three former employees who allege May created a hostile work environment by yelling at and insulting employees.
CBC News spoke to all three employees and confirmed their allegations but also spoke to former employees who said the complaints are overblown.
In a statement, the party framed the allegations as coming from "disgruntled former staff."
'Not everybody likes me'
May said that she won the support of 94 per cent of her party at the last leadership review, but pointed out that the remaining six per cent wanted to oust her, just as others in the minority have in the past.
"A woman leader of a federal political party has to be tough," she said. "I do not regard having a backbone as a character flaw. I am staying on as leader. I will be doing the work that our members and supporters want me to do."
May said that she has strong opinions, but if she ever lost her temper with anyone, she apologized right away.
"Although it grieves me to say it, of the hundreds of people who have worked for me over the years and the thousands of people I've met, in my work both at Sierra Club and in the Green Party, not everybody likes me. And that's OK, I accept that, it's life."
Vanessa Brustolin, one of the complainants, said she worked for the Green Party from June to September of 2017 and during that time she said May bullied her. Brustolin did not give explicit details of the alleged abuse but did say that she was shouted at in public.
"She was just bullying and demeaning," Brustolin told CBC, "and yelling, publicly yelling."
Brustolin said she is concerned the scope of the investigation is not wide enough and has concerns that the report released at the end of the investigation will not reflect all of the facts.