Parliament Hill harassment: All-party board lacks mandate to look into complaints
House affairs committee to study 'appropriate disciplinary processes' for complaints against MPs
The all-party panel responsible for overseeing House administration has concluded that it has no mandate to investigate the harassment allegations that led party Leader Justin Trudeau to suspend MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from caucus last month.
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In a brief statement delivered just before question period, Board of Internal Economy spokesman John Duncan said discussion during Tuesday's closed-door confab was "productive."
"The board was able to agree on interim measures and will be implementing some immediate changes," he noted, including allowing MPs and staff to use the informal dispute resolution process managed by House administration.
"Ultimately, the House itself has responsibility for pronouncing on the conduct of its members," Duncan noted.
As such, he said, the board has also asked the Speaker to refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee, which will report back with its recommendations on "appropriate disciplinary processes" for complaints involving MPs.
Concerns about fairness
But neither the board nor the committee is prepared to launch a full probe into the specific complaints lodged against Andrews, who represents the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon, and Pacetti, who represents the Quebec riding of Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel, by two as-yet-unnamed NDP MPs.
"The board does not have a mandate for member-to-member conflicts," Duncan explained.
As such, he agreed the two MPs "are in limbo until the logjam is broken," but noted that the board "is not empowered to do that."
He pointed out that the four MPs involved could avail themselves of the mediation resources available through House administration, although he admitted that such a move would be difficult without a formal complaint, which the board has been told is unlikely to happen.
"The more we have a policy in place, the more pressure … there will be on the four individuals involved to be a party to such a policy," he predicted.
"I do have concerns about fairness," he said.
"That's why it's important that we move very quickly to create a process — so that we don't end up here again. The fact is, I've been here for almost 20 years. I've never seen this before, and I hope never to see it again."
'Very serious complaint' required action: Trudeau
Speaking to reporters outside the House, Trudeau said he was still waiting for an official response from House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer on the request for an impartial, arms' length investigation.
He also said his party supports the move to have the committee come up with recommendations for dealing with complaints involving MPs in future.
"I think this highlights that there is no process, which is why I've asked for a third party investigation to allow for a full airing on these very serious complaints of personal misconduct," Trudeau told reporters.
He also defended his decision to suspend Andrews and Pacetti from caucus even before such an investigation had been launched.
"I received, personally and directly, a complaint — a very serious complaint as to the behaviour of two of my MPs. I have a responsibility to act, and I acted," he said.
"It is my duty as leader to encourage and protect people who come forward with such allegations, and that's what I did."
Meanwhile, New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair took advantage of the daily question period to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper if the government would support his proposal for dealing with workplace harassment on the Hill.
"Sexual harassment is obviously a very serious matter," Harper replied.
"I cannot comment on the particular cases, because I know nothing of the facts. However, I can say that the government has had policies in place for this for some time. I gather the Board of Internal Economy and the procedure and House affairs committee are looking at that. We would be pleased to share our existing policies with those bodies."
The prime minister's answer left him "somewhat skeptical," Mulcair told reporters after question period.
"We wanted to have a clear statement."
He also seemed somewhat unsure whether the interim measures announced by the board would do much to address the complaints against Andrews and Pacetti.
"I'm not sure it really pertains," he told reporters.
"That has more to do with trying to prevent, and we're not dealing with prevention."