Horwath reserving judgment after damning allegations from NDP staffers
The party has seen three recent human rights complaints in Hamilton MPP offices
The leader of the Ontario NDP said Thursday she's holding off on deciding if there's a culture problem in Hamilton MPP offices in the wake of employee complaints of bullying, abuse of power and racism.
Most people are fair minded, and they'll see when these things are brought forward that there's a due process.- Andrea Horwath
Andrea Horwath said today she's waiting for the outcome of numerous union grievances, as well as three complaints filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
Until then, she said, she won't decide whether to discipline the MPPs or remove them from caucus. She also insisted voters in Hamilton — an NDP stronghold — won't "rush to judgment."
"Most people are fair minded, and they'll see when these things are brought forward that there's a due process," she said.
Horwath made the comments after Todd White, an elected official himself, filed a human rights complaint this week against his long-time employer, MPP Paul Miller.
White, who chairs the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, alleges the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP conspired to get rid of him — in particular because of occasions when he couldn't work weekend events because he couldn't find childcare for his two young children.
I would be shocked if it was not an election issue.- Brad Clark, former cabinet minister
White also alleges "abuse of public office," claiming Miller routinely disciplined staff who didn't do re-election work during office hours.
He also said Miller makes "routine racist, sexist and homophobic comments" in the office, including cracks about other public officials.
Miller wouldn't comment on those accusations this week, saying it's in the hands of party human resources officials.
It was the third human rights complaint to hit Hamilton New Democrats in about a month. Sandra Troulinos, an employee of Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor, claims Taylor tried to force her to file a sexual harassment complaint against a female coworker who gave hugs.
That female coworker, Alissa Watt, has also filed a human rights complaint.
The allegations come at a high-stakes time for the party. The provincial election is June 7 and Horwath is trying to pull ahead of Liberal Kathleen Wynne and Conservative Doug Ford. Horwath, a Hamilton Centre MPP, has been party leader for nine years.
These cases will be replaced by other cases.- Peter Graefe
Horwath denies local media reports implying there are issues in her own office, too. No one in her office is on stress leave, she said.
The NDP is the only party with unionized constituency workers, she said, citing the complaints as proof the system is working.
"It's protection for those workers to make sure when something occurs that they have a remedy," she said. "That's what's going on right now."
Not everyone is so sure. Brad Clark, a former Ontario PC cabinet minister and political commentator, called White's complaint "very troubling."
"I would be shocked if it was not an election issue," he said.
In Hamilton, at least, "they're going to have to answer some difficult questions."
"Right now, they can say no comment because it's a personnel matter, but when they're on the hustings, people will want to know."
Peter Graefe, a McMaster University political scientist, said the complaints "create a certain vulnerability. For people who are looking for reasons not to vote for them, this is a reason."
At the same time, he doubts voters elsewhere will care about issues in two Hamilton offices.
"I don't think it's going to have long-term shelf life," he said. "These cases will be replaced by other cases."