With MPs' allegations public, now what?
Liberal MP Scott Andrews, left, Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti, right, are seen in this composite photo. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS, Parliament of Canada)
Published Thursday, November 6, 2014 5:50PM EST
Leaving after dinner with a dozen MPs a few years ago, a female colleague of mine rolled her eyes and showed me her BlackBerry messages.
Three of the MPs had sent her suggestive invitations to meet for drinks later that night or in the future.
If they’re making such bold advances on a journalist they hardly know, one has to wonder about the treatment of staff or interns who depend on MPs for a paycheque.
Look, the vast majority of MPs are loyal husbands without roving eyes, but there is a what-happens-in-Vegas aura around Parliament Hill.
So what to make of MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti, suspended yesterday from the Liberal caucus and their re-election bids over allegations of harassment raised by two female NDP MPs.
It must be stressed they both deny the allegations and deserve the right to fight to overturn what may be perceived as a conviction in the court of public opinion.
But while false allegations of harassment are not unprecedented, perhaps these particular circumstances will be seen to tilt the presumption of guilt against the accused.
These NDP MPs are not seeking revenge, they are not conniving for personal gain and must’ve known their complaint could ruin the career of a fellow MP if they became public.
Of course, that’s the rub here. The NDP MPs never intended to make public their allegations. The women just wanted the harassment to stop.
But the minute they went directly to Justin Trudeau, there was never a possibility it could be kept under wraps. The Liberal leader had to act or be accused of a cover-up.
So now what?
Normal conflicts between rival party MPs revolve around one blasting another member as a brainless weasel or worse with the Speaker requesting an apology to the offended weasel.
But this is setting precedent in a place where sexual tension has always percolated without prosecution.
There’s no established process to hear the case beyond a Star Chamber of MPs meeting in secret.
If the identity of the complainant is to be protected while the accused protests their innocence, a fair and just hearing will be extremely difficult.
Besides, it must be noted sexual harassment can take many forms, ranging from excessive flirtation to chronic proposition to predatory aggression.
Those are not all equal grounds for the expulsion and left-for-dead treatment given the two Liberal MPs yesterday.
This needs a speedy resolution to uphold the complaint or vindicate the accused.
But, if nothing else, these allegations have already echoed around Parliament Hill to the sound of testosterone misbehaviour being zipped up.
That’s the Last Word