Nfld. & Labrador

Scott Andrews' constituents want more facts before passing judgment

MP Scott Andrews' suspension from the Liberal caucus for alleged misconduct is a delicate subject in his Newfoundland riding where local mayors, political organizers and several residents declined to be interviewed.
Scott Andrews, MP for Avalon, was suspended from the federal Liberal caucus on Nov. 5. (CBC)

MP Scott Andrews' suspension from the Liberal caucus for alleged misconduct is a delicate subject in his Newfoundland riding where local mayors, political organizers and several residents declined to be interviewed.

Others in the pretty oceanfront enclaves of Conception Bay South said they don't know enough detail to get into what they called one very "tangly" topic.

But John Maher, owner of Maher Kitchen Cabinets near the MP's constituency office, summed up a common sentiment among those who will talk.

He is in no position to respond to an unknown allegation.- Chris MacLeod, Scott Andrews' lawyer

"It's hard to shock us people anymore, but we were in shock," he said in an interview. "We don't know what to think.

"How can you condemn a man on these allegations?

"I'd like to hear some hard facts and if I could say: 'Oh, Scott Andrews deserves this or that,' well and good. But as of now, he's just as innocent to me as if it had never happened."

Andrews denies any misconduct

Andrews, a former ethics critic, has denied through a lawyer any wrongdoing since Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suspended him from the Liberal caucus Nov. 5 along with Quebec MP Massimo Pacetti.

Andrews has refused further comment. But sources familiar with the complaint have told The Canadian Press in Ottawa that an unnamed NDP MP alleges he victimized her within the past six months.

The sources say the incident allegedly started at a social event on Parliament Hill before the woman, Andrews and Pacetti went from there to Pacetti's office, where they drank some wine. Pacetti eventually left, leaving Andrews and the woman alone.

The sources say the woman alleges Andrews followed her home, forced his way through her door, pushed her against a wall, groped her and ground his pelvis against her. The sources say she says she ordered him to leave and he did.

The woman further alleges that Andrews repeatedly called her a "c—kteaser" after the incident, according to the sources.

Andrews, a married father of two, has denied any misconduct. But the sources say he has not given a detailed rebuttal to the woman's version of events that night.

His lawyer, Chris MacLeod, said earlier this month in an email to The Canadian Press that Andrews was not provided with "any details of the internal summary or any documentation from the Liberal caucus" about the complaint against him.

"He is in no position to respond to an unknown allegation," it said.

Touchy subject in Conception Bay

Margo Murphy, president of the Conception Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, said Andrews was a fixture at local events, who made his name in 2010 with a private member's bill to change bail provisions.

Its passage allowed courts to refuse bail for suspects accused of serious crimes when a child under the age of 18 may be in danger.

The new law stemmed from the 2003 death in Newfoundland of Zachary Turner at the hands of his mother, who was wanted in the U.S. to face trial for the murder of Andrew Bagby, the child's father.

"He has a good reputation," Murphy said of Andrews. "It's a touchy subject here in the riding.

"I think at the end of the day, the biggest thing is fairness to all involved, whether it be the NDP MPs, as well as the Liberals."

The jarring lack of any process to handle harassment complaints between MPs is troubling, Murphy said.

"It seems like everyone's been sort of unfairly played in this," she said.

Another unnamed NDP MP, who has accused Pacetti of "sex without explicit consent" in March, now says she would be willing to participate in a neutral, third-party investigation. But it remains to be worked out how House administration resources and external experts might be used.

Pacetti has said in an email that he maintains his innocence and has refrained from speculation in the media since the allegations first surfaced.

"As with media reports of this nature, in this instance many questions remain unanswered and there is no way to evaluate the veracity of the claims being made," he has said in an email.

"I reaffirm my innocence and I will not comment on this matter in the media any further."

Andrews has said he's confident a non-partisan process will find that no harassment occurred.

Forgotten victims

In the meantime, constituents in the Avalon riding he has represented since 2008 are left in limbo along with him.

Bill Hogan, former mayor of Placentia, N.L., has known Andrews for 25 years. He described him as a friend and devoted husband and father whom he used to chide for not being more politically aggressive.

Hogan said in an interview that the forgotten victims in this affair are the families of Andrews and Pacetti.

"No matter what they did, they deserve to know explicitly what they're accused of."

Hogan, 77, said he may be proved wrong, but considers himself a good judge of character.

"If he did do it, or any form of it, I think he'll need a kick in the rear end for being so stupid.

"It's just not in him," he said of Andrews. "And if it is, then we'll all heave up."