MLA Rick Wowchuk remains in PC caucus after showing assistant pic of naked women
Manitoba Tory caucus chair says he can't discuss any details about the decision
Manitoba's Progressive Conservative caucus is standing by Swan River MLA Rick Wowchuk after an internal investigation found he showed his assistant a picture of naked women.
The provincial PC caucus met Wednesday for the first time after a CBC report revealed Wowchuk breached the legislative assembly's respectful workplace policy five times.
Caucus chair and Lac du Bonnet MLA Wayne Ewasko emerged from the afternoon meeting to announce that Wowchuk, who was re-elected in Swan River during the Sept. 10 provincial election as the PCs were returned to power, will remain a member of the caucus.
"Mr. Wowchuk is the PC MLA for Swan River and part of the PC team," Ewasko said.
He refused to go into detail about what was discussed at the meeting or even acknowledge that the Swan River MLA's fate was on the agenda. He only acknowledged that Wowchuk has undergone sensitivity training after the results of the investigation were received.
"We don't discuss it outside of caucus," Ewasko said. "What happens in caucus stays in caucus."
Few details given about decision
A caucus spokesperson later confirmed that "Mr. Wowchuk's membership in our caucus was confirmed by the full group today."
A week earlier, Premier Brian Pallister had said he would not interfere in caucus matters.
"That'll be a caucus decision. I'm not trying to prejudice the decision," Pallister said on Sept. 12. "A caucus membership is a decision caucus should make, not the leader."
Wowchuk's breaches came to light after CBC obtained a June 11 letter from the legislative assembly that detailed the five breaches. The investigation stemmed from a complaint his former constituency assistant made to the assembly's human resources department.
The letter, which outlines the findings of the independent investigator who looked into the complaint, was sent to Ewasko.
CBC has agreed not to name the assistant, who says Wowchuk tricked her into looking at the picture by asking her if she wanted to see a picture of "hard-working beavers."
'Double standard,' says ousted MLA
Wowchuk's fate is far different than that of former Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon, who was ousted from the PC caucus over inappropriate comments.
Graydon was given the boot after two incidents were made public, in which he allegedly asked a legislative staffer to "sit on his lap."
He says the party is using a double standard when it comes to the discipline of Wowchuk.
While Wowchuk was allowed to run in the recent provincial election, Graydon says he had to sign a letter stating he would not seek the PC nomination for his riding. Days later he was booted from caucus.
"It came as a surprise. Of course it did," said Graydon, who ran in the provincial election as an independent and lost the Borderland seat to PC candidate Josh Guenter.
"Because I had signed the paper, but at the same time because I had apologized to the individual."
Wowchuk was allowed to run under the PC banner in Swan River after he apologized and underwent sensitivity training.
"I feel that I was treated unfairly. Of course I do," said Graydon.
He wants to know what has changed in the caucus policy that allows Wowchuk to stay.
"I can only speak for my own self. I didn't feel that I should be kicked out, and if caucus has changed their stance on stuff, well, let them go and announce that publicly," Graydon said.
"Let them answer why, then, they have a double standard."
Ewasko said he couldn't discuss any details about why Wowchuk was allowed to run again in the Sept. 10 election. He won the Swan River seat with over 70 per cent of the vote.
"My personal opinion is that Rick ran a fantastic campaign in Swan River and was elected to represent those people in Swan River," Ewasko said.