OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer refused to say Tuesday what fate might await those involved in the party’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against Rick Dykstra during the 2015 election campaign.
Scheer, who called a news conference to pillory Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his tony Bahamian vacation with the Aga Khan, was instead peppered yet again with questions about the misconduct controversy roiling both the federal Conservatives and their Ontario counterparts.
Most of those questions he deferred to a promised third-party investigation that has yet to begin, since the details have yet to be sorted out. But Scheer said he wants to move quickly so the report can inform the structure of the next campaign.
Until it is finished, Scheer said he won’t comment on statements being made by anyone — including former prime minister Stephen Harper — about the fact the party knew Dykstra was facing accusations dating back to 2014 but kept him on the ballot in 2015 because no charges had been filed.
“There are statements now out there by some people involved; those statements speak for themselves,” Scheer said.
“I’ll leave it to the findings of the third-party investigation to determine what happened, what went wrong, what can be done going forward.”
Harper, his former chief of staff and one of the Tory campaign chairs in 2015 have now all come forward publicly with accounts of how the matter was handled following a Maclean’s magazine report on the allegations against Dykstra and the fact that removing him as a candidate was discussed by the party.
Dykstra, who resigned his position as president of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, denies the allegations, which have not been tested in court nor confirmed independently by The Canadian Press.
Dykstra was a friend and fellow MP of former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, whose sudden downfall and resignation last month amid similar allegations — all with a provincial election looming this summer — helped to precipitate the current controversy.
Brown surfaced Tuesday on Twitter to thank those who continue to support him, and to again protest his innocence.
“I am immensely grateful for all the support expressed to my family and myself,” he tweeted. “#Metoo can be a tool to lift society and I applaud that effort. False allegations however undermine that good work.
“The truth will come out. Thank you to all.”
Scheer refused to say whether those involved in the 2015 incident remain welcome in the party.
“I’m not going to speculate, I’m not going to try and guess what may or may not be in that report,” he said. “My job is to make sure that those types of mistakes can’t happen going forward.”
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel chastised those involved in the decision in the aftermath of the report last week, saying they should no longer hold any positions of influence.
On Tuesday, she said she’s “satisfied at this point in time with the level of severity and the degree of seriousness that the leader of my party is placing on this issue.”
Scheer is implementing a code of conduct for his MPs, as well as training. The party is also requiring all candidates who want to run in 2019, including incumbent MPs, to say whether they have ever been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
“This is not an issue that is being faced by just one party,” Scheer said.
“It crosses all party lines and I really do sense good faith between party leadership of all parties to deal with this in a way that is meaningful.”
Indeed, Liberal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said as much Tuesday, suggesting that the Parliament Hill community is conscious of the need for permanent change and seized with making it happen.
“That consciousness is obviously much greater than it would have been 10 years ago — that’s a very positive thing,” LeBlanc said.
“Everyone, I think, has become much more aware in a positive way of the steps that have to be taken to ensure that you’re not standing idly by while something inappropriate happens.”
Also Tuesday, the NDP — wrestling with a harassment allegation of its own against caucus member Erin Weir — said University of Ottawa law professor Michelle Flaherty, a former vice-chair of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, had been appointed as its independent investigator.
Weir was suspended from caucus duties last week after a reply-all email from caucus colleague Christine Moore alleged “harassing behaviour towards women, specifically members of the NDP staff team,” leader Jagmeet Singh told a news conference.
The Liberals, meanwhile, are promising a “rigorous green-light process” for its candidates in the 2019 election.
“The details of that process are still being reviewed and finalized,” party spokesman Braeden Caley said in an email.