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opinion

Kevin Falcon announces his bid for the leadership of the BC Liberals in Surrey, BC.Simon Hayter/The Globe and Mail

Candidates for the leadership of the BC Liberal party will have a chance this weekend to say why they’re the best person for the job.

But the spotlight at a gathering of riding presidents, party executives and MLAs will train especially hard on Kevin Falcon, not just because he’s the prohibitive favourite in the race, but because of a controversy that has the potential to derail his campaign.

Mr. Falcon will undoubtedly be asked about his handling of an incident that allegedly happened between four male members of his campaign team and the female campaign manager of a leadership rival. As the facts spill out, his judgment in the matter looks highly suspect.

Here is what Diamond Isinger, campaign manager for candidate Michael Lee, says took place.

On Friday, Oct. 29, Ms. Isinger was in a downtown Vancouver bar when the four members of Mr. Falcon’s team came in. One, who held a senior position on the campaign team, made a sexually suggestive joke that Ms. Isinger found offensive. She protested, which set the person off on a profanity-laced tirade.

According to an account of the incident that Ms. Isinger posted to Twitter on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 31, the man berated her with misogynistic slurs for 15 minutes, calling her a “fucking bitch” among other things. When she refused to accept a handshake from him in an apparent attempt at reconciliation, it set him off again. Ms. Isinger broke down in tears. For most of the time, the other three members of the Falcon team sat there watching. Eventually they made an attempt to de-escalate the situation by urging their friend to go for a walk.

Those are the facts as Ms. Isinger relates them – facts Mr. Falcon would later say he believes.

The morning after the incident, a tearful Ms. Isinger phoned Mr. Falcon’s deputy campaign manager to apprise him of the situation. She expected some consequences to flow from what she was telling the person. The campaign manager said he would look into it immediately. We know now he related details of the call to Mr. Falcon.

But nothing happened.

By Sunday afternoon, Ms. Isinger still hadn’t heard anything from the Falcon camp so she decided to go public, posting a detailed account of what took place on Twitter. Surprise, surprise, this prompted Mr. Falcon to respond on social media, saying he was shocked by the allegations and promising to look into them immediately. He phoned Ms. Isinger to apologize, saying this was the first he heard of the incident.

We would later learn it was not.

The next day, Mr. Falcon would sever ties with the man behind the attack. There have been no consequences so far for the other three who sat by and mostly allowed it to continue.

Mr. Falcon has said he will get a third party to investigate the incident, someone his team will pick. There doesn’t seem to be any timeline for when this “investigation” is to be finished. Why Ms. Isinger would ever co-operate with this type of star chamber exercise is beyond me. It’s pure theatre intended to convey the impression that Mr. Falcon is taking the matter seriously. But he isn’t.

If he believes Ms. Isinger’s account as he’s stated he does, then why is there a need for someone to investigate? Believe the woman. It’s pretty simple. Ms. Isinger has a stellar reputation that is beyond reproach. Everyone in the Liberal party knows it too. Mr. Falcon’s team had to be pretty stupid to think they were going to get away with not doing anything about this, especially with her.

Years ago, Ms. Isinger started a blog on Tumblr called Madam Premier. It documented the vile and sexist comments aimed at female premiers based on her experience working as an online consultant for the BC Liberals. She’s been a fierce advocate for protections for women against this type of abuse.

Mr. Falcon doesn’t need a lawyer to investigate this situation, he needs some common sense. He should immediately fire the other three men who mostly sat by and watched this attack take place. How they can still be working for him is unconscionable.

He needs to explain his own questionable conduct here. Why did he allegedly tell Ms. Isinger one thing about when he learned of the incident and later admit to something else entirely? Why did his camp do nothing until Ms. Isinger posted her account of the incident on Twitter?

When the BC Liberals meet this weekend, they need to hold Mr. Falcon to account. The future of their party may depend on it.

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