Katherine O'Neill

The “independent third-party investigator” engaged by Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party to look into complaints of harassment against certain candidates for its leadership has concluded there’s no “direct evidence” anyone was responsible for anything.

OK, something happened. But while there was some evidence of “ill-mannered” behaviour, the report by a Calgary-based security and investigation company, as written up by a former PC Party president, indicated it just couldn’t be linked to any particular candidate’s campaign.

“What the investigators could not find was a link to say that any specific party directed this behaviour,” explained current party President Katherine O’Neill in a CBC news story.

Just in case you missed it, the actual incidents of harassment the PC Party was supposed to be looking into were those directed against Sandra Jansen, who at the time was a candidate for the leadership of the party. It happened during the PC policy convention in Red Deer last month. Jansen was harassed because she was a member of the party’s progressive wing, and, as happens all too frequently in Alberta politics nowadays, because she is a woman.

Jansen was assailed in the hallways of the convention hotel by people who were identified at the time as supporters of Jason Kenney, the social conservative former Harper Government federal cabinet minister who is running to lead the PCs and merge them with the Wildrose Party.

All of this is pretty hard to dispute, notwithstanding the vague findings of the investigators engaged by the party, whose notes were then turned into the report that was made public by lawyer and former PC Party president Chris Warren.

Jansen expressed frustration with this outcome of the investigation, as well she might. But I doubt she was very surprised.

There are those who will say the PCs have little interest in following up on this matter because she has since left the party in disgust and joined the NDP Government. It’s more likely Jansen left the party in disgust because she could be pretty confident it had no interest in following up on the harassment she was subjected to in a meaningful way.

If you’re a woman, or a man for that matter, who holds liberal views and you complain of harassment by the right in Alberta, you will nowadays be dismissed as a delicate “snowflake” by Alberta conservatives. The implication is that you can’t take the normal rough and tumble of politics, a game played with the elbows up, bien sur.

But it must be noted that what was dished out to Jansen had nothing to do with normal robust political discourse.

This is an ironic tactic by the right, it must be added, since conservatives with their continual whining about how they’re traumatized by “political correctness” are the very first people to whine and blubber when anyone forcefully takes issue with them. So it should come as no surprise that soon after Jansen’s complaint, Kenney claimed that he too had been a victim of intimidation and harassment.

This rather reminded me of an upstairs neighbour my wife and I once had, who responded to our complaints about the noisy dance parties he threw into the wee hours most weekends by complaining about the annoying padding sounds made by our stocking feet in the mornings while he suffered through his hangovers.

Well, at least the investigators from IRISS Corp., “a consortium of investigators and risk-management professionals,” found that Jansen had suffered more abuse than Kenney.

The investigation company, by the way, was misidentified in some news stories, whose authors apparently confused it with an oilfield service corporation with a similar name.

For her part, O’Neill indicated she doesn’t think the PC Party has a problem with sexism.

And as for Warren’s role, she said: “IRISS was hired to confidentially conduct all the interviews etc. as a third party; they sent the interview notes, their findings and two recommendations to Chris to write a final report for the board; he was our legal counsel and yes, is a former party president and has remained neutral in this leadership race. Many of the people who were interviewed didn’t want their names released publicly.”

Jansen told the CBC that “from the moment I started thinking about entering the race my Facebook page … was filled with filth. I don’t believe that any kind of that kind of filth was directed at Jason Kenney.” Anyone who has been paying attention has observed much the same thing.

Still, I guess if people aren’t willing to take responsibility for their own actions or those of their supporters, no inconvenient links to a particular campaign can ever be proved. Now move along, please. There’s nothing to see here, folks.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...