OTTAWA – Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh kept his cards close to his suit jacket on Wednesday after huddling with his MPs for several hours to discuss troubling allegations from one of their colleagues, who has been accused of harassment.
Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir rocked his party on Tuesday when he alleged that the harassment complaint levelled against him in January was not only unfounded, but a politically motivated attempt to punish him.
Weir alleges the complaint was brought forward by a member of former leader Tom Mulcair’s staff in retaliation for Weir having questioned the Trudeau government’s national carbon-tax plan and its potential impact on western Canada.
The charge of high-level trickery came as the NDP weighed the results of a third-party investigation into the harassment complaint that was ordered by Singh and wrapped up late last month.
Both Weir’s allegations and the report on the former economist’s conduct loomed large as Singh and MPs met in their weekly, closed-door caucus meeting.
But the NDP leader wouldn’t comment after the meeting on Weir’s allegations or reveal the results of the investigation conducted by University of Ottawa law professor Michelle Flaherty into the harassment complaint against Weir.
“We’ll have more to say about that later,” Singh told The Canadian Press after offering his thoughts on the sudden death of longtime Conservative MP Gord Brown. “Today’s a day to just to show our support and respect for (Brown’s) family.”
Several NDP MPs whom Weir has alleged were involved in the effort to punish him for trying to debate the carbon tax, including Quebec MP Christine Moore and Ontario MP Charlie Angus, refused to comment and referred questions to Singh.
Moore, who initially flagged concerns about Weir’s behaviour in an email to fellow caucus members in January, did confirm that she had been told the final results of Flaherty’s investigation, but would not provide details.
“There is confidentiality in the process and I will respect the engagement that I made in terms of confidentiality,” she said.
Weir was in Regina on Wednesday and did not attend the caucus meeting.
NDP officials have said the investigation’s findings – and Singh’s plan to address the situation – are still being communicated to the complainants and that parts will be released in the coming days.
The investigation was opened in February after Moore accused Weir in an email to fellow caucus members of having harassed several women, including NDP staff members.
While Moore said she had not personally experienced anything untoward, Singh deemed the allegations serious enough to suspend Weir from his duties as an NDP MP and ask Flaherty to investigate.
Weir pleaded his innocence on the day he was suspended, but otherwise stayed silent while the investigation was conducted – at least until his office released a statement late Tuesday.
It said Weir was forced to speak up after the CBC quoted an unidentified complainant who accused Weir of having spoken to her in an angry and belligerent way that made her feel physically intimidated.
“It is clear that the complainant is a former staff member in the (former) NDP leader’s office who intercepted Weir on the way to a microphone to prevent him from speaking on a resolution at the 2016 Saskatchewan NDP convention,” the statement said.
It added that Weir wanted to debate a proposal calling for Canada to extend its carbon tax to imports from countries that do not have such levies and provide a rebate for Canadian, but that Angus and Mulcair “wished to suppress this discussion.
“In other words, the complaint arises not from Weir exercising authority over an employee, but from the former federal leader’s staff asserting their authority to shut down a debate they deemed contentious,” said Weir, who denied being angry or belligerent.
Weir went on to allege that Mulcair and Angus banned him from question period for several months “as punishment for having tried to raise the issue,” and accused both of having opposed his efforts to seek the NDP nomination in Regina-Lewvan in 2014.