TVO launches 3rd-party investigation into Steve Paikin over sexual harassment allegations

Ontario's public broadcaster has launched a third-party investigation into journalist Steve Paikin over allegations of sexual harassment made by a former Toronto mayoral candidate relating to comments at a 2010 lunch.

Allegations date back to 2010 lunch

Former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, left, and journalist Steve Paikin. (CBC, Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ontario's public broadcaster has launched a third-party investigation into journalist Steve Paikin over allegations of sexual harassment made by a former Toronto mayoral candidate.

A statement from TVO chief executive officer Lisa de Wilde released Monday morning said the broadcaster became aware of the allegations on Saturday after Paikin received an email from Sarah Thomson, relating to comments he allegedly made to her at a 2010 lunch.

"TVO does not tolerate sexual harassment. We believe it is important that allegations be fully heard and investigated. Therefore, TVO is appointing an independent third party to investigate Ms. Thomson's allegation," de Wilde said.

TVO did not repeat what was in Thomson's email, but said the former mayoral candidate had "made references to this allegation" on both her website and on social media. 

CBC News has not independently verified the allegations.

'No recollection'

​In a Feb. 2  post on her website Women's Post, Thomson describes a lunch at Grano, a restaurant near Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue West, that she said she attended along with her assistant and a political talk show host, whom she does not idenitfy. 

"There is still one man whose actions haunt me," Thomson wrote. "Not five minutes into the lunch the host asked me if I would sleep with him. My assistant almost spit his drink all over the table."

Thomson writes that she replied she would never do that and then excused herself to call her campaign manager, though it's also not clear to whom she was referring and CBC Toronto was unable to confirm the identity of her campaign manager at the time. 

But John Tory Jr., a campaign adviser to Thomson at the time, said in an email to CBC Toronto that he has "no recollection of any such event or phone call," adding he first heard of the allegation in news reports over the weekend.

Her post goes on to say that the host has since approached her several times, usually at political functions, with the proposition. 

De Wilde says Paikin immediately notified TVO of the email.

Based on the evidence received so far, the broadcaster says, TVO sees "no reason to remove Mr. Paikin from his role" as host for its flagship program The Agenda, pending the outcome of the investigation.

TVO said it would not be commenting further.

Thomson ran for mayor in the 2010 and 2014 elections, and said Rob Ford groped her in 2013. Ford called the accusations "absolutely, completely false."

Thomson has declined to make a comment to CBC Toronto about her allegation, saying, "I am not looking to be paraded through the press as I was last time, nor am I looking to shame Steve."

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News