'He told me to sit on his lap': 2nd woman comes forward with accusation against Manitoba MLA Cliff Graydon
Graydon's inappropriate comments widely known among former staff and MLAs, sources say
A former Manitoba legislative staffer was "floored" when she read the news that Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon told a female staffer to sit on his lap.
That's because the staffer says Graydon made a near-identical comment to her five years ago.
"That is exactly what happened to me," she said. "I felt like I was reading a story about myself."
It was reported last week that the Progressive Conservative MLA was the subject of a harassment allegation, having allegedly asked a female legislative staff member to sit on his lap during a meeting earlier this month when there was no chair available for the woman.
Another woman — a junior staffer who CBC has agreed not to identify — said when she saw those reports, she was immediately taken back to a day at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon in 2013.
At the time, she had only been in her position for a few months and was at an all-party dinner event, with staffers and MLAs from both the then Opposition Progressive Conservatives and the governing NDP. At one point, she got up from her seat and when she returned, Graydon was sitting on her chair, she said.
"And then he told me to sit on his lap, so I did," she said.
She explained that she at first thought of it as a joke, but also felt compelled to do it.
"Part of it was responding to an order from a superior, because I was definitely a subordinate in that situation," she said.
"Also, just not being able to appreciate the gravity of the situation and the position I was in as a subordinate, as a woman responding to this man with power who was bold enough to say that."
Graydon's fate to be decided next week
Immediately afterward, several staffers approached her to say that Graydon had said similar things to other women.
Her accusation comes as Graydon's political future with the Progressive Conservatives hangs in the balance.
Following CBC's initial report, the party said an MLA's "inappropriate comment" was dealt with immediately, but refused to name Graydon, or say what it meant for his position on the Manitoba Hydro board or what disciplinary action was taken.
On Wednesday afternoon, after CBC had asked Graydon and the party to comment on the 2013 incident, Graydon issued a statement announcing he will not run for re-election in 2020.
"I have apologized fully and unequivocally to the impacted individual for my remarks, which the individual has accepted," Graydon said in a statement.
He said he recently made an inappropriate comment to a staffer at the Manitoba legislature and that he was going on medical leave. He also said he will be taking sensitivity training and respectful-workplace counselling.
The statement did not address any other accusations.
'He should be removed from caucus'
The party issued a statement confirming caucus will meet next week to further discuss the incident.
"I am glad that MLA Cliff Graydon has begun the long and complex journey of trying to understand how his actions have negatively affected women around him throughout his time in office," the staffer who made the allegation about the 2013 incident said in a statement emailed to CBC, though she expressed concern about the process.
"It is hard for me to know how to feel about the proposed solution without knowing the process," she said, adding she wants to be able to contact a neutral third party.
"I want my input to be used to strengthen and tailor his program to his specific needs," she said.
But she adds she wants to see Graydon removed from PC Party caucus.
"I definitely think he should be removed from caucus. He doesn't deserve his party's support or resources."
CBC was able to confirm with several people that the junior staffer told them what had happened after the alleged 2013 incident.
She told several MLAs about it, including then St. Norbert MLA Dave Gaudreau. He confirmed to CBC that the woman told him about the incident either the day it's alleged to have happened or the following day.
CBC spoke to several people who worked at the legislature in various roles under the previous NDP government, including cabinet ministers, who said it was widely acknowledged that Graydon made inappropriate comments directed at women.
There is no evidence that a formal complaint was ever made about Graydon.
"It is just that old-school mentality," said Gaudreau, who lost his seat in the 2016 election.
"It was absolutely widely known."
He said that he asked the staffer if she wanted to make a formal complaint regarding Graydon's comment, but she didn't want to take it any further. He said it probably would be handled differently now, as attitudes have changed and more supports are offered to those who speak out.
"I said if she wanted to move forward, I would help her. It wasn't my story to tell and I am not going to do that to somebody," he said.
"Back then it was still a closed-door issue — [for example] Minister Tickles," he said, in reference to former NDP MLA Stan Struthers, who faced multiple accusations of unwanted touching and harassment from staff members earlier this year. He acknowledged "inappropriate" interactions with staff.
Gaudreau says he was not aware of the allegations against Struthers when he was at the legislature.
The latest person to accuse Graydon of inappropriate comments said she chose to avoid interactions with him.
"I just decided that I was going to let it go, rather than dealing with a long, drawn-out process against someone with a lot of power," she said.