WINNIPEG – A Manitoba government backbencher who made inappropriate comments to a female staff member says he is going on medical leave and will not seek re-election.
Cliff Graydon’s announcement on Wednesday came days before the Progressive Conservative caucus was scheduled to discuss his case. It was an about-face from an interview with The Canadian Press last weekend when he said the matter had been dealt with.
“Recently, I made inappropriate remarks to a staff member at the Manitoba legislature,” Graydon said in a written statement. “I have apologized fully and unequivocally to the impacted individual for my remarks, which the individual has accepted. In addition, I would like to offer the same full and unequivocal apology to my colleagues, my constituents, and, most of all, my family, all of whom expect and deserve a greater level of respect than I have demonstrated.”
The Winnipeg Free Press and the CBC, quoting unnamed sources, have reported that Graydon told a caucus worker she should sit on his lap during a luncheon where there was a shortage of chairs. The newspaper also said Graydon on another occasion was told by a female staffer he had food on his face and he invited her to lick it off.
Graydon said he is going on medical leave to deal with unspecified health problems, will not run again in the 2020 provincial election, and will undergo further sensitivity training.
“I acknowledge that everyone has the right to a safe and respectful workplace. As such, I will be taking additional, more comprehensive sensitivity and respectful workplace counselling, to be determined by caucus leadership.”
The Tory caucus is still planning to discuss the controversy, but members have refused to say whether Graydon might face expulsion.
“We acknowledge the statement from MLA Cliff Graydon earlier today. As previously indicated, the PC caucus will be meeting as a whole next week for further discussion,” read a brief statement from caucus chairman Wayne Ewasko.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Graydon’s statement is puzzling because legislature members don’t have a formal medical leave.
“You either just don’t show up for work and continue collecting a paycheque or you resign,” Kinew said.
Graydon, in his early 70s, has represented the Emerson constituency near the United States border since 2007.
He faced controversy last winter when he used social media to call asylum-seekers who had been crossing the border “a drain on society.” He also retweeted other people’s posts that called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a traitor, a scumbag and a disgrace.
Graydon apologized, deleted the tweets and agreed to step back from social media and undergo sensitivity training, the details of which were never made public.
Some form of censure from caucus is not the only punishment Graydon may face.
Colleen Mayer, minister for Crown services, said earlier this week she and her fellow cabinet ministers were preparing to discuss whether Graydon should be removed from the board of the province’s energy utility.