WINNIPEG – The Manitoba government is implementing a new harassment policy following allegations that a former NDP cabinet minister tickled and groped female staffers.
Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister says the policy’s “no wrong door” approach gives employees more options to report complaints, including the independent clerk of the executive council and the civil service commission.
The policy will also cover employees outside the legislature — those with Crown corporations, municipalities, universities, schools and in the health system.
The premier made the announcement at a news conference Thursday alongside Rochelle Squires, the minister responsible for the status of women.
“I don’t care who you are. Harassment is not on,” said Pallister.
“The woman who comes here every morning and cleans the railings on the stairs is as important as Rochelle to me on this. Everybody deserves to feel safe in the workplace. Everyone.”
Several women who came forward earlier this month said Stan Struthers, an NDP cabinet minister from 2003 to 2014, tickled them, groped them or made sexual remarks. They also said Struthers touched them in front of others.
Former NDP premier Greg Selinger has apologized, but said he never witnessed inappropriate behaviour and was unaware at the time that anything had happened.
He announced this week that he will resign his legislature seat on March 7.
Two women who worked with Struthers have said they complained to their boss and were told that matter was taken to Selinger’s chief of staff. They said they were later informed they would have to “suck it up.”
The NDP earlier announced that it was appointing two women to lead a commission that will develop a safe workplace policy for the party. NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Thursday that a draft policy has been completed.
He said the policy change had been in the works long before the accusations against Struthers.
“This is something that transends party lines. We all have to do better,” said Kinew.
Pallister said he will make respectful workplace training mandatory for all his cabinet, caucus and political staff.
Employees need to feel respected and heard, and not fear reprisal or an impact on their careers, he said.
“There’s been a culture where there was at least a perception that people in senior positions were untouchable,” said Pallister.
“It was a culture of concealment … and it is over.”
Provincewide employee consultations are to be held so officials can learn about past harassment, added Squires. An external consultant will also be hired to review the government’s policy and make any further recommendations.
Pallister said the policy also requires the government to release an annual, public report listing the numbers and types of harassment complaints it receives.