Alberta Party asks for investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against 2 MLAs

The Alberta Party caucus is asking for an independent investigation into how sexual misconduct allegations against two sitting NDP MLAs were handled.

Premier Rachel Notley has said the names of the 2 MLAs will not be released

Alberta Party MLA Karen McPherson, left, has written to the Speaker of the Legislature to ask for an investigation into how the government handled sexual misconduct allegations against two sitting MLAs. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

The Alberta Party caucus is asking for an independent investigation into how sexual misconduct allegations against two sitting NDP MLAs were handled.

On Nov. 8, Premier Rachel Notley's office said two MLAs were investigated for allegations of inappropriate behaviour toward women that originated from outside caucus.

"It was revealed by the office of the Premier that two sitting members of the government caucus were accused of sexual misconduct, and that the matter was kept secret and dealt with behind closed doors," wrote Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill MLA Karen McPherson in a letter on Nov. 16 addressed to Speaker Robert Wanner.

Notley's office said the complaints were not criminal and related to events that happened outside the MLAs' workplaces, and that independent investigations concluded the behaviour could be dealt with through education.

"The people Caucus engaged with were Janice Rubin of Rubin Thomlinson in Toronto and Ayla Akgungor of Field Law in Edmonton," said a government spokesperson in an emailed statement. 

"Both issued reports and we followed through on all of their recommendations. Those reports cannot be released publicly because they would jeopardize the privacy of the complainants — something they've both requested.

"Our policy for investigating these matters is very similar to that used by the Legislative Assembly Office and was followed. These were internal caucus matters but we welcome the LAO — and anyone else for that matter — to review our policy."

McPherson said according to Legislative Assembly Office's harassment policies, the party's caucus is not the primary body responsible for investigating sexual assault, so the Premier's assurance that the matter was appropriately handled internally is not sufficient.

Misconduct thrives in secrecy: MLA

"Withholding information about the process used to discipline the offenders does a disservice to the public … as many survivors will tell you, sexual assault and sexual misconduct thrive in secrecy," she said in the letter.

The Alberta Party caucus is requesting an investigation into whether the process followed by the government's caucus was appropriate and effective, and if the process is found to have been flawed, that an independent investigation into the conduct of the two MLAs be opened.

Notley was asked on Wednesday why she simply wouldn't release the names of the legislature members but keep other details of the complaints private, as both complainants wanted to remain confidential.

"If you're going to respect the confidentiality of the complainant, then you can't start parsing which details come out and don't come out," she told media at the time.

McPherson is a former NDP MLA who left the caucus to sit as an independent, saying provincial politics had become too polarized, before she joined the Alberta Party.

The premier's office released the information about the two allegations after former NDP backbencher Robyn Luff said caucus members had been warned not to politicize indecent behaviour cases involving United Conservative Party MLAs because the NDP had its own problems.

Luff was kicked out of caucus after she said she would boycott the legislature over her concerns.

The UCP had one workplace complaint filed against a sitting legislature member and the matter was resolved internally.

CBC has reached out to the premier's office for comment.

With a file from the Canadian Press.