Commons committee: no mandate to investigate misconduct complaints

Board of internal economy punts matter to another committee

OTTAWA – Two suspended Liberal MPs remain in limbo after a multi-party committee determined it has no mandate to establish a process for investigating misconduct complaints between members of Parliament.

The secretive board of internal economy, which oversees the operation of the House of Commons, has instead punted the matter over to another committee.

In the meantime, it has adopted interim measures which board spokesman John Duncan says could be used by the two Liberal MPs and the two female New Democrat MPs who’ve accused them of misconduct to informally resolve their dispute.

“The (Liberal) MPs are in limbo until such time as the logjam is broken,” Duncan said Tuesday after the board met to discuss the matter.

“The board of internal economy is not empowered to do that.”

Those interim measures involve adopting elements of the process in place for dealing with sexual harassment complaints by Commons staff, including allowing for informal mediation.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suspended Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews from his caucus two weeks ago, pending an investigation into the allegations.

The NDP women, who have not been named, have so far refused to level formal complaints about the Liberal pair, although one complained directly to Trudeau.

Earlier Tuesday, NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin said Trudeau should have just given a verbal warning to the two MPs in the absence of a formal complaint.

Ever since the suspension, the two parties have accused one another of politicizing the matter — the Liberals arguing Trudeau had a responsibility to act and the New Democrats saying the Liberal leader revictimized the women by publicly suspending the MPs.

Neither the names of the women nor their allegations have been made public. Pacetti and Andrews have denied any wrongdoing.

“It seems to me that any lawyer would have advised a person that if there is no complaint, there’s not much you can do,” said Boivin, who is herself a lawyer.

“So you can maybe talk to your people and say, ‘Watch your behaviour, because if this is true, etc…’ and then that’s it. But when we act politically instead of acting logically and like any other normal person should act, then you get these bizarre situations.”

The NDP, meanwhile, has asked the board to establish a code of conduct on harassment for MPs and appoint an independent officer to look into such complaints.

MP Philip Toone, a member of the board, emphasized that any new process would not deal retroactively with the current allegations — they would continue to be dealt with by the individual party whips.

“I think the consensus is there that we want a process that is equitable and fair for everyone and the problem right now is there is no process,” Toone said.

Some Liberals have called for quick action, out of fairness to Andrews and Pacetti.

“I think that what has to be found is basically a system of fairness under the law, or in this case Parliament,” said Liberal MP Wayne Easter.

“You have a right as an individual, whether it’s a correct accusation or a false one, you have the right to defend yourself and that’s what has to happen. There has to be a way to balance the allegations against you with some fairness.”

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