Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon expelled from PC caucus following 'pattern of inappropriate behaviour'
2 former legislative staffers allege Graydon asked each of them to sit on his lap
Cliff Graydon has been ousted from the Progressive Conservative caucus after he reportedly made an inappropriate comment to a legislative staffer.
The Emerson MLA's former colleagues met behind closed doors on Monday to determine the veteran politician's fate.
"While we do not take this decision lightly, it has become apparent that previous attempts with Mr. Graydon to address a pattern of inappropriate behaviour have not succeeded," said caucus chair Wayne Ewasko in a prepared statement.
"We have acted fairly, swiftly and respectfully in dealing with this difficult matter while ensuring all policies and procedures were followed and that the privacy and confidentiality of all parties involved were respected."
Graydon's future has been in question after he allegedly asked a female legislative staff member to sit on his lap during a luncheon earlier this month where there was a shortage of chairs. Later, a second former legislative staffer came forward to CBC with similar allegations.
In response, the party said an MLA's "inappropriate comment" was dealt with immediately, but refused to name Graydon or say what disciplinary action was taken.
Graydon initially said the incident was dealt with to the satisfaction of all parties, but days later announced he would go on medical leave and take sensitivity training. He said he would not seek re-election in 2020.
To anyone who thinks these punishments are too severe, I would ask them to ask themselves — what if this was your daughter?- Premier Brian Pallister
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister endorsed his caucus's decision, which he described as a difficult but important call.
Further, he wants Graydon removed from the Manitoba Hydro board, which cabinet will decide upon on Wednesday.
"To anyone who thinks these punishments are too severe, I would ask them to ask themselves — what if this was your daughter? What if this was your son? How would you feel then?" Pallister said.
He acknowledged he knew of previous examples of inappropriate behaviour from the MLA, for which Graydon received counselling, but Pallister refused to divulge whether he was speaking about more incidents than the time the Emerson MLA was reprimanded for tweeting that asylum seekers were "illegals" and a "drain on society."
"Evidently, that counselling was less than successful," Pallister said.
He declined to share how the PC caucus reached its decision to boot Graydon from his post.
Action took too long: accuser
The former legislative staffer who came forward with another harassment accusation against Graydon from 2013 said she's disappointed the MLA hadn't faced consequences earlier.
"There were numerous opportunities over the years where this situation could have been corrected, but too many people in positions of power chose to look the other way," she said in a statement.
"All those years, I felt like my experience didn't matter," she said. "That being said, I am pleased to see the PC caucus react quickly to the most recent news of sexual harassment involving MLA Cliff Graydon. In the end, the right thing was done."
The staffer — whom CBC agreed not to identify — was attending an all-party dinner at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon in 2013 when she returned to her seat and found Graydon sitting there. He told her to sit on his lap and she did, she said. The employee said she thought it was a joke, but she felt compelled to sit down.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont didn't buy Pallister's argument that dismissing Graydon shows his party is serious about addressing harassment allegations.
Without media exposure, Lamont suggests Graydon would have endured no serious ramifications.
"It's not enough to say we need a culture change or a rule change, there is no set due process," Lamont said. "We need an independent ethics commissioner who can actually take care of this."
House speaker Myrna Driedger plans to unveil a revamped harassment policy for all politicians and staff at the legislature by the end of the year.
I'm an 'imperfect ally,' Kinew says
When questioned on his own checkered past, which includes stayed assault charges, NDP leader Wab Kinew said he's an "imperfect ally" committed to creating a safe work environment.
"I can't make excuses. I have to stand up and do what I can to make this a better place for women, in particular, but really for anybody."
A longtime farmer, Graydon served as MLA for Emerson since 2007. The Progressive Conservative party website lists him as a champion for seniors while serving in the legislature.
With files from Kristin Annable, Sean Kavanagh