NDP loyalists say Erin Weir's expulsion saga will cost federal party Sask. seat
Weir, complainant and party veteran talk about political fallout following harassment investigation
Exiled New Democrat Erin Weir, his supporters and his detractors all say the saga that ended with the Regina-Lewvan member of Parliament being ousted from the NDP caucus could cost the party his seat — and maybe more — in the upcoming federal election.
Weir was expelled from the NDP caucus by federal party Leader Jagmeet Singh in 2018 following a harassment investigation.
"If you look at the polls and the projections that are out there right now, it appears as though the Conservatives will win the constituency easily," Weir said in an interview with CBC News last week.
The controversy around his situation has "has hurt the federal NDP," he said.
Weir won the riding in October 2015 by 132 votes over Conservative Trent Fraser.
The win was part of a breakthrough for the federal NDP in Saskatchewan. The party won three seats, its most since 2000.
In February 2018, Singh announced an investigation into claims Weir was responsible for "harassing behaviour toward women." The NDP asked women with any complaints to come forward.
In May 2018, Weir was expelled from the NDP caucus after a third-party investigation found "multiple complaints," including one sustained claim of harassment and three of sexual harassment against Weir.
An effort by the Regina-Lewvan riding association in February 2019 to have Weir run as the NDP candidate in the upcoming federal election was denied by the party.
In May, Weir announced he would not run, and Jigar Patel was nominated as the NDP candidate in June.
Regina Saskatchewan Party MLA Warren Steinley was selected as the Conservative candidate in April 2018. He has a head start and name recognition in the race.
In June, NDP riding association president Susan Butson told the Regina Leader-Post "I can't see us winning, but you never say never until the ballots are in."
Weir said he remains a party member and intends to vote for Patel.
"I can't say that I support the current federal NDP leader," Weir said.
Weir said he is "baffled" by the decision to expel him from caucus and ban him from running. He said he was optimistic he would be reinstated if he completed sensitivity training and followed the process that was laid out.
"If people are not going to be allowed to run as NDP candidates because they engaged in an argument or because they stood too close to someone at a social function, I'm not sure who could possibly pass vetting to be an NDP candidate," Weir said.
It is "over the top" to label those interactions as harassment, Weir said. He called one of the accusations of sexual harassment against him "pretty far from what most Canadians would think of as being sexual harassment."
A number of people, Weir said, have asked about his tendency to miss non-verbal cues during interactions, which he said led him to seek testing for a possible autism diagnosis in the winter of 2018.
"I actually did go to see a very respected psychologist and did go through the assessment process to determine whether or not I was on the autism spectrum. And the conclusion was that I was not. There was no diagnosis."
Weir also says the way the party handled his case and allegations against Quebec MP Christine Moore amounted to a double standard.
Moore was suspended from caucus by Singh after accusations of harassment and abuse of authority. In July 2018, the NDP announced an independent investigation cleared Moore.
"I think Mr. Singh was still wanting to prove that he was serious about me too, and to really try to establish some kind of credibility in that way— I don't think it worked. I think it actually discredited him."
Weir said he believes his expulsion had to do with his defence against initial allegations in the media, and his opposition to some of the federal leader's positions, including Weir's support for pipelines and criticism of Singh's carbon policy.
In May 2018, Singh said he was willing to look at rehabilitative approaches, but Weir "did not accept responsibility for what the inquiry found to be a fact," the NDP leader told reporters.
"He attacked someone who came forward with a complaint. He also released details that could identify the individual. All of this makes it clear a rehabilitative approach is no longer possible."
'Toxic and harmful': complainant
Paula Krasiun-Winsel worked on Erin Weir's 2015 election campaign.
In February 2018, when Singh asked complainants to come forward, Krasiun-Winsel submitted a harassment allegation against Weir.
She said that while an investigation deemed her allegation was not sustained, "nobody else can speak for my feelings and how I felt in that situation."
Krasiun-Winsel said the way in which some prominent Saskatchewan NDP members have reacted in defending Weir and dismissing the allegations has been "toxic and harmful."
"We shouldn't be giving airspace to people who are misinformed and are perfectly confident in their lack of information."
She said she cannot get into specifics about her interaction with Weir due to a non-disclosure agreement, but specified that it was not sexual in nature.
Krasiun-Winsel , who represents Saskatchewan on the federal NDP's women's council, said she thinks the NDP will lose Regina-Lewvan and points to the fracture between supporters created by the Weir saga.
"It's created a very clear divide. You're either a Weir supporter, or you're not a Weir supporter and you support the federal party's decision, and there's really no grey area."
She said she is hopeful the party will be able to unify following the Oct. 21 federal election.
The Saskatchewan 68
Former Regina NDP MP Lorne Nystrom was one of 68 former Saskatchewan MPs or MLAs who signed a letter to Singh opposing his handling of the process in Weir's case.
"We believe that your decision to expel Weir from the federal NDP caucus is a serious mistake and has ramifications for the party not only here in Saskatchewan but across the country," the letter from May 2018 said.
More than a year later, Nystrom stands by that position.
"I think [Singh] handled it very very badly," he said.
"I know very few New Democrats and very few people in Saskatchewan who think that Mr. Singh did the right thing. That's one reason why the party is having difficulty federally in Saskatchewan, in particular in southern Saskatchewan."
Nystrom said Singh's lack of support in the province is also due to a lack of presence. Singh has made one brief trip to Regina since becoming leader. He was in Saskatoon this spring.
Last month, Eric Cline, a former NDP provincial finance minister, wrote an opinion piece in the National Post in which he referred to Weir's expulsion as a "travesty."
In September 2018, Singh was again asked about the decision and said it was not going to change because of pressure.
"I am not going to change my decision because people of a position of privilege want to intimidate me."
Nystrom echoed concerns that Weir's expulsion could ultimately cost the party in Regina-Lewvan.
"If the election were held today, that seat would not be won."
With files from CBC's Catharine Tunney