Manitoba premier says NDP politicizing investigation into workplace harassment
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s premier said the official opposition is trivializing the respectful workplace agreement after one of its MLAs rejected the findings of the investigation last week.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Premier Brian Pallister criticized the response of NDP Leader Wab Kinew and NDP MLA Adrien Sala to the results of an investigation into harassment of a government worker.
“These comments are an attack against every MLA against the legislature itself,” Pallister said. “And against the very important principle that everyone has the right to a safe workplace free from harassment and bullying.”
Pallister added, “They have sought to politicize the legislature’s independent process, in so doing, they attempt to discredit a policy that seeks to hold people accountable for their actions.”
On Friday, the result of an independent investigation was released. The investigation, which was made public in December, found Sala, who represents the St. James riding, breached the respectful workplace agreement when he made comments about civil servant Paul Beauregard, alleging he had a conflict of interest and interfered with Manitoba Hydro. Beauregard said Sala bullied, harassed, offended, and embarrassed him during a line of questioning in the Legislative Assembly, alleging he interfered with Manitoba Hydro during an RFP process for an 'important government contract.'
Sala said at the time, the contract from the RFP was awarded to Beauregard's former employer Bell MTS, which at the time was called MTS.
A letter to Beauregard from Manitoba's Civil Service Commissioner Charlene Paquin, which was released publicly on Friday, said they saw no evidence that Beauregard violated the conflict-of-interest policy.
Sala rejected the findings of the investigation, saying the harassment complaint was an intimidation attempt. Kinew said he would not sanction Sala.
Pallister criticized Kinew’s decision, saying he refused to demonstrate personal leadership.
Speaking with CTV News Monday afternoon, Kinew defended his decision to not sanction Sala, saying the MLA was doing his job.
“His job as the Critic for Manitoba Hydro is to ask tough questions of government,” he said. “Why are they raising people’s rates without a public hearing? Why did they privatize a subsidiary of Manitoba Hydro last fall? And what is the government planning to do with the fibre-optic lines that Manitoba Hydro owns across the province that could provide high-speed internet?”
Kinew said his party will not apologize for standing up for Manitoba Hydro, saying the harassment policies are to protect people in the workplace, not to protect the Progressive Conservative government from answering questions.
“Mr. Pallister, through his press conference today, is still just trying to change the channel off of what he has been doing with Hydro, in terms of raising rates, and he’s trying to drag one of our colleague’s names through the mud in order to do it,” he said.
-With files from CTV’s Danton Unger and Mike Arsenault.