Two complaints investigated against NDP MLAs, premier's office says

Two NDP MLAs have been investigated for inappropriate behaviour outside the workplace since the party took office in 2015, Premier Rachel Notley's office says.

Premier faced questions for the first time Thursday about former NDP MLA Robyn Luff

Premier Rachel Notley faced questions from reporters about former NDP MLA Robyn Luff for the first time Thursday. (CBC )

Two NDP MLAs have been investigated for inappropriate behaviour outside the workplace since the party took office in 2015, Premier Rachel Notley's office says.

CBC News asked the premier Thursday whether there had been any allegations or incidents of inappropriate behaviour toward women among her MLAs or among the Alberta NDP.

Notley said she wasn't aware of any.

Hours later, her spokesperson clarified that the premier had misunderstood the question.

Cheryl Oates said the premier initially thought CBC had asked if any such allegations had been made by MLAs about caucus colleagues.

The answer to that question remains no, Oates said.

The two MLAs were investigated for allegations that originated from outside caucus, Oates said. Their identities will not be revealed. 

"Confidential independent investigations were undertaken in each case resulting in recommendations that were implemented," Oates said. "In order to respect the privacy of the complainants, further details will remain confidential."

Oates said the complaints were not criminal in nature. But the government took the allegations seriously, and independent third-parties were asked to conduct investigations, she said.

"In both cases, the investigations concluded that the behaviour could be addressed through education and instruction," she said.

Notley's availability on Thursday was the first time reporters have been able to ask her questions about allegations made earlier this week by former NDP MLA Robyn Luff.

Luff said she was bullied and faced a culture of intimidation under Notley's leadership. She also alleged that government MLAs were told to keep quiet if they heard anything about opposition members behaving inappropriately toward women "because our party wasn't completely without fault on the matter."

Notley said no directive silencing MLAs was ever made.

"Under no circumstances would that rule be in place by anybody who answers to or is accountable to me," Notley said. "And in fact none of the leadership in our caucus would ever have said such a thing."

Luff sent a letter to the media Monday announcing she was boycotting the legislature because NDP MLAs had been deprived of their ability to properly represent their constituents and bullied into toeing the government line.

The Calgary MLA said the government scripted questions for backbenchers to ask in the assembly and in committee meetings. Anyone who rebelled faced shunning by their colleagues and a fear their nomination papers would go unsigned, Luff said.

Hours after Luff released her letter, the NDP caucus voted to expel her from its ranks. She will now sit as an independent.

However, she said in a subsequent letter that she will continue to stay away from the legislature and will hold a meeting with her constituents to get direction on what to do. 

Bullying allegations without foundation

Asked about Luff's bullying allegations, Notley referred to interviews the Calgary-East MLA had with the media this week. Notley said Luff was unable to provide any specific examples of bullying, which led her to conclude the contentions are without foundation.

Notley said the caucus has internal processes for MLAs and staff to make complaints. She said Luff did not access any of that help.

"We understand that member is not a fan of the parliamentary system and would like to have complete independence in all that she does," the premier said. "But that's not the way the system works.

"The processes that she described definitely describe common rules and processes within the parliamentary system of democracy. What she described [does] not amount to bullying, though."

Asked if she plans to review what happened, the premier said the NDP's internal policies and processes for making a complaint were sufficient.  She said the NDP also has a code of conduct for how people behave toward each other.

Notley said caucus engaged in a "fulsome" discussion about the issues Luff raised in her letters.