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Political parties split on committee decision in speaker harassment complaint


FREDERICTON – A legislative committee in New Brunswick has made a decision on what action to take in respect to harassment allegations against Speaker Chris Collins, but details are being withheld and the vote was far from unanimous.

The Legislature Administration Committee announced Monday that it had received a summary of findings from an independent third-party investigator and concluded that harassment allegations against Collins were founded, but only in part.

The committee met for about 90 minutes Friday to determine what action to take, but declined to release details until Collins and his accuser have been notified.

However, Green Leader David Coon said the committee has failed the victim. “They did not provide a harassment free, safe, workplace for an employee of the legislative assembly. Nor was effective and clear recourse provided for the victim by the LAC committee. We need to do both of those things,” he said following the meeting.

Coon said he would have more to say once the deputy speaker issued a statement.

Progressive Conservative member Ted Flemming said the vote was five to three, with the five Liberal members voting in favour of the decision, and the three opposition members against it.

“We were just shutout. It was a real we and they. We were provided practically nothing in terms of information,” Flemming said.

Details of the committee’s decision were expected to be released later in the day Friday. The name of the complainant and details of the allegations have not been released.

Premier Brian Gallant announced in early April that Collins was being suspended from the Liberal caucus, saying the premier’s office had been made aware of potential allegations of harassment in February, but the complainant didn’t come forward with allegations until two months later.

In March, the government announced a subcommittee of the legislature had been formed to develop a workplace harassment policy for the legislative assembly.

Progressive Conservative member Pam Lynch is on that committee, but says they have yet to meet.

“It is frustrating. I was appointed to the committee and I expected we would meet long before this and we haven’t,” she said.

In May, Collins announced he would sit as an Independent while pursuing a case of libel and slander against the provincial government.

First elected to the provincial legislature in a 2007 byelection, Collins had previously served three years as a Moncton city councillor. He was briefly minister of local government under former Liberal premier Shawn Graham, and was elected Speaker after the Liberals returned to power in September 2014 under Gallant.

Copyright (c) 2018 The Canadian Press