N.B. politicians may face new sex harassment rules – Telegraph Journal – 14 March 2018
Green Party Leader David Coon had been calling on another committee of government to add an MLA code of conduct to existing rules.
The Gallant government is aiming to create a separate workplace harassment policy for the province’s politicians and their staff.
It also plans to add a section on harassment to a code of conduct governing MLAs, two moves that are in reaction to allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour facing politicians federally and in other provinces.
New Brunswick’s politicians fall under a government-wide workplace harassment policy.
But provincial politicians believe that now doesn’t go far enough after Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown resigned while denying sexual misconduct allegations and federal Liberal MP Kent Hehr stepped down from his cabinet post over allegations of sexual harassment.
Jamie Baillie was also forced out as leader of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party after an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
“We see what’s happening on Parliament Hill and across the country, so we want to make sure that we have a policy in place here for the legislative assembly,” cabinet minister Lisa Harris said in announcing two separate motions at the legislature. “I introduced this policy to ensure that there is a formal policy in place here at the legislative assembly.
“Previously, the legislature followed the government of New Brunswick’s workplace harassment policy, but since the legislature is a separate employer, we felt that it should have a separate policy.”
The policy governing MLAs and their staff could end up being different from what is in place government-wide.
Harris’s motion instructs the legislative administration committee, a closed-door committee of MLAs, to “consider and establish a policy on the prevention and resolution of harassment, including sexual harassment in the workplace.”
That policy will come into effect as soon as it’s formulated and approved by the committee, regardless of whether the legislature is sitting, according to the motion.
The legislature could be in its final week ahead of the next provincial election.
The government and the Progressive Conservatives have signalled that few sitting days remain.
“Every person has the right to work in an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment and to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their background, beliefs, gender or culture,” reads the government motion.
Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs called in January for the New Brunswick government’s harassment policies to be reviewed and enhanced after the two Tory leaders in other provinces resigned.
He suggested there was a gap in the current policy.
“This legislation should be reviewed and should be extended and written to include all government employees, including legislative and political staff. We need to act now to give people the tools to end sexual and workplace harassment.”
Meanwhile, Green Party Leader David Coon had been calling on another committee of government to add an MLA code of conduct to existing rules.
A report from the standing committee on procedure, privileges and legislative officers recommended in December and then detailed a draft of the roles and responsibilities that MLAs should be expected to follow.
The second government motion aims to adopt them.
Debate on both motions is set for Friday.
The code of conduct includes a section on “respect and courtesy,” including a safe environment for all legislative assembly employees and staff, “free from any discrimination on any ground and from harassment in the workplace including sexual harassment.”
The Gallant government also recently called on the province’s MLAs and their staff to take “sensitivity and appropriate workplace behaviour” training.