Zero tolerance on sexual misconduct for UCP MLAs, Jason Kenney says

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney says he told his MLAs during a caucus retreat in Edmonton Monday the party has a zero tolerance policy for sexual misconduct.

UCP leader says he wants any possible victims and perpetrators to come forward to party whip

UCP Leader Jason Kenney says his party has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual misconduct. (CBC)

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney says he told his MLAs during a caucus retreat in Edmonton on Monday that the party has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct.

"If anybody is aware, either as a victim or as a perpetrator, of such acts, they should immediately come forward to our whip to discuss this confidentially," Kenney said in response to a reporter's question Tuesday.

Kenney, who was sworn-in Monday as the MLA for Calgary-Lougheed, has been meeting with his caucus over the past two days. 

In the past week, a number of prominent Canadian politicians, including former Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown and former Sport and Disability Minister Kent Hehr, have been forced to step down in the wake of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. 

Women who work in media, politics and entertainment have spoken up about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment ever since the New York Times revealed last fall that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had sexually abused actresses for decades. 

Kenney spoke favourably about the women who have come forward. 

"I do hope at this important moment, both in politics and in other walks of life, that women and others who have been subject to any form of sexual aggression or harassment feel empowered, safely, to come forward to share their stories," Kenney said. "And I hope to ensure accountability."

Kenney said lawyers from the legislative assembly have also briefed staff on existing government protocols.

The party will put prospective UCP candidates through a rigorous pre-screening process that will include questions about sexual misconduct. 

"If we identify that kind of misconduct on the part of an applicant for nomination, we will red-light them," Kenney said. "They will not be permitted to proceed."

MLA regrets firing woman 

Kenney said that provision includes current and future candidates.

Before Christmas, it was revealed that when UPC MLA Jason Nixon owned a safety company in 2005 he fired a female employee who complained about being sexually harassed by a contractor at B.C. worksite.

The matter went to the B.C. Human Rights Commission, which found the woman was fired after complaining to Nixon's company about the harassment.

Kenney said Nixon regrets how he handled the situation at the time, but noted he was not accused of sexual harassment.

Nixon disclosed the matter to the Wildrose Party when he was vetted as a candidate prior to the 2015 election, Kenney said.

Kenney was also asked about former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra.

Dykstra stepped down as president of the Ontario PC Party on Sunday, hours before Maclean's magazine published accusations he had sexually assaulted a parliamentary staffer in 2014.

Kenney was a Conservative MP and federal cabinet minister at the time but he said he never heard the allegations about Dykstra while he was in Ottawa.

He said he would have gone to the Conservative Party whip if he had known.