‘We need to raise the bar’: PC Alberta concludes harassment investigation

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Despite incidents of “rude and ill-mannered behaviour” during the Alberta Progressive Conservative party’s convention last month, a report released by the party’s board of directors on Sunday said there is no evidence showing any leadership candidate had their supporters target another campaign.

The two-page report from an independent third party investigator comes after former Alberta PC party leadership candidate Sandra Jansen alleged harassment at the party’s convention in Red Deer left her “quite shaken.”

“There were clear findings that there indeed were incidences of harassment and intimidation,” PC Alberta president Katherine O’Neill said. “But what the investigators could not find was a link to say that any specific party directed this behaviour.”

Jansen — who later in November crossed the floor to join the Alberta NDP caucus nine days after dropping out of the PC leadership race — submitted a formal complaint about behaviour at the conference to the party’s leadership election committee.

PC leadership contender Jason Kenney also submitted a complaint, saying he was also intimidated and harassed.

O’Neill said though Kenney was subjected to verbal abuse, “by no means was it to the same extent that Ms. Jansen alleged to have had that behaviour directed at her.” The report said Jansen experienced verbal harassment that made her feel unsafe and rude remarks were written on nomination papers.

According to the report, four other female PC party members spoke to the report’s investigators about experiencing verbal abuse at the conference due to their political beliefs.

But O’Neill said she doesn’t believe there is a sexism issue within the party.

“I think there’s just a lot of passion and a lot of people that are wanting to express their views,” she said.

“I think that’s a very concerning message if women don’t feel welcome at the table. They are — they always will be within our party.”

‘He-said, she-said’

The report concluded some allegations were believed to be unfounded and that certain actions could have been the result of differing opinions within the party.

Investigators determined there was evidence that some campaign supporters acted abusively toward attendees, but that there was no evidence showing either campaign directed these supporters to target others.

“Unfortunately, there was a lot of he-said, she-said and no actual witnesses to it,” O’Neill said, adding the witnesses who did come forward often weren’t able to identify the people in question.

O’Neill said she’s disappointed by the actions of some party members, and they will act on the findings of the report by “developing processes” at their meetings. They are also looking at increasing security, as well as adopting an opt-in code of conduct for all members to abide by.

“Nobody should come to a meeting and feel that they’re going to be intimidated or bullied,” she said. “We’ve been sent a message that we need to do better, and we will do better.”

Candidates’ response

Representatives from Kenney’s campaign said in an email Sunday afternoon that they are happy with the results of the report.

“Neither Jason nor any member of the campaign staff has engaged in personal attacks against other candidates,” director of communications Blaise Boehmer said.

“The report also notes the reality that campaigns have ‘very little control’ over how members of the public at large might act.”

When reached by CBC News, former PC leadership candidate Jansen said she will review the document before making a comment.

PC Policy Conference Report

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‘We need to raise the bar’: PC Alberta concludes harassment investigation

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