The statement of claim alleges Verlyn Olson, then chief of staff to Ed Stelmach, was harassed by the former NDP MP Rob Anderson
Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party, premier Rachel Notley and three members of the party’s leadership cabinet are being sued for “systemic” abuse of power that contributed to sexual harassment and bullying in the party’s upper ranks, the Edmonton Journal reports.
The statement of claim, first reported by CBC News, alleges that Verlyn Olson, a senior member of the campaign team that swept Ed Stelmach into the party’s leadership in 2006, was harassed by former New Democratic Party MP Rob Anderson, who became a major influence in the party.
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The paper reported that the suit claims that Anderson “engaged in sexual conduct” toward Olson “on many occasions” and “created an environment that allowed Olson to feel like he was unable to express, discuss, or complain about the victimization that came with that conduct because of the influence of and the condition created by Anderson.”
Aboriginal and federal advocacy groups, the attorney general’s office and Oliver Jean, the former youth affairs minister, are also alleged to have harassed Olson. The province’s human rights commission has also been named as a defendant, according to the claim.
According to the suit, Olson was once so uncomfortable that he had to return to Alberta from a campaign trip due to it becoming too “hostile” for him to have “contact with Mr Anderson in any way, shape, or form whatsoever”.
The statement also alleges that the provincial party failed to take action against Anderson, and that Stelmach did not, to date, publish his response to a formal complaint against Anderson and his party’s internal body.
It also alleges that the party failed to act because the harassment “sunk deep into the culture and operated with impunity, which was a direct result of a careless, inattentive, and/or incompetent action by many senior members of the PC party and a culture of sexual favouritism that was of the province and government.”
An Edmonton trial date has not yet been set.
Postmedia reported that Notley’s office has defended the PC’s leadership.
“One of the things that I believe is important for Ontarians to understand is that the PC party is simply not, in any way, a reflection of the Government of Alberta,” read a statement from her office.
“The premier’s office is focused on delivering strong, safe and affordable services for Alberta families,” it continued. “The allegations were filed under Alberta’s human rights tribunal rules. For more information, I encourage anyone with any information to contact the human rights tribunal.”
Anderson was unavailable for comment.
The statement of claim claims that he has refused to file a statement of defence, but remains a member of the PC party.
“We don’t believe the allegations. It’s a political manoeuvre to make the party look bad,” said Amanda Hinkson, Anderson’s press secretary.
Asked how the party would respond to the allegations, Hinkson said she would not speak to “specific details that aren’t in the statement of claim”, but added that Anderson “has a very long history as a long-time PC party member”.
The New Democrats, whose style of government was popular in the province, were defeated in the 2016 provincial election. Notley has faced high disapproval, especially with her handling of various issues in the public sector.