Manitoba’s Liberal Leader says politicians accused of sexual harassment or other inappropriate comments should face possible suspension from the legislature.
Dougald Lamont’s comments came after a woman said she was groped and propositioned by Cliff Graydon, a legislature member who was kicked out of the governing Progressive Conservative caucus last month and now sits as an Independent.
There is virtually no way for an elected official to be removed or punished for bad behaviour, Lamont said Thursday. He said Manitoba’s conflict-of-interest commissioner should be given new power to investigate ethical matters and suspend MLAs without pay.
“They wouldn’t be able to vote, they wouldn’t be able to go to committees and they wouldn’t be paid.”
Graydon was booted from the Tory caucus after media reports that he had asked two female staff members to sit on his lap and invited one staffer to lick food off his face.
Graydon admitted earlier this month that he made inappropriate comments, but said he was only guilty of having an outdated sense of humour and had never knowingly touched anyone inappropriately.
This week, a woman who is a long-time party member and volunteer told The Canadian Press that Graydon groped and propositioned her at a Tory social event in September 2017.
Graydon has not responded to multiple requests for comment. He previously said he intends to stay on as an Independent, but not run for re-election in October 2020.
None of the allegations has been tested in court and the woman has not filed a complaint with police.
A political analyst said Lamont’s idea would likely face hurdles.
Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said centuries of parliamentary precedent show elected officials are normally protected from any outside restraint on their duties except for criminal matters.
“You don’t have to be a constitutional antiquarian … to recognize that the tradition has been that parliaments and legislatures deal with the misbehaviour of their members,” Thomas said.
British Columbia has a recall system – unique in Canada – that allows constituents to remove their provincial representatives. A by-election can be triggered by gathering the signatures of 40 per cent of eligible voters in any district.
Lamont said the 40 per cent requirement is high and would probably never be met in Manitoba.
He also said Graydon should consider stepping down voluntarily.
“I don’t want to rush to judgment, but certainly if these allegations are true … it’s not fit behaviour and we have to have higher standards.”