Kenney’s office faces a serious lawsuit containing sexual harassment allegations

Politics Insider for Oct. 28, 2021: Jason Kenney’s office faces a serious lawsuit; a possible Papal apology; and a COVID miss
Alberta Legislative Building in Edmonton, Alta. (Photo by John Elk III via Getty Images)
Canada, Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta Legislative Building, dome.

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CBC’s Elise von Scheel reported Wednesday that former senior staffer Ariella Kimmel is suing Jason Kenney’s government, and legal documents contain disturbing allegations of sexual harassment and heavy drinking in the senior ranks of Kenney’s team. The legal documents raise questions not just about the conduct of some of Kenney’s top people, but also how others handled complaints once they learned of them.

After a senior advisor is alleged to have made a sexually inappropriate comment to a member of Kimmel’s staff, she informed several officials.

The next day, Kimmel reported the exchange to Chris Thresher, the chief of staff in health, and Matt Wolf, the premier’s director of issues management.  She heard nothing for almost a month.

UCP MLA Leela Aheer called on Kenney to resign after the story broke.

Pressure to drop case:  The new Trudeau cabinet is under pressure, again, to stop fighting a court order ordering it to compensate and provide services to Indigenous children, Global reports.

While federal ministers responsible say they’re weighing the “complex” decision, Indigenous advocates continue to push the government to drop the litigation. “The government is at a crossroads and so is the country,” said the Child and Family Caring Society’s Cindy Blackstock in an emailed statement.

The government has until Friday to make up its mind.

Papal apology? The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis would visit Canada, at some unknown time, to seek “reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.” That will have to mean an apology for the church’s role in residential schools, Indigenous leaders told CP.

No secret: Steven Guilbeault sought to calm roiled western waters on Wednesday after his appointment as environment minister sent shockwaves through the oil patch. Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, told reporters he has no “secret agenda,” CBC reports.

Guilbeault said the government’s plan to fight climate change is “very clear” and most of it — such as carbon pricing and the push for more public transit and cleaner energy sources — is “already known.” The Trudeau government has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Flooding the zone: In Maclean’s, Andrew MacDougall tries to makes sense of a shuffle full of messages. One of them, according to MacDougall, is the Trudeau doesn’t care about foreign affairs.

In the last Parliament, our new chief diplomat couldn’t be trusted with any heavy machinery, but in this Parliament she is just the person to get our rusty relationship with the United States back on track. Nor is it likely that Joly is the right person to devise a strategy to neuter China. Oh right, we’re China’s friends. Maybe it does make sense, after all. Whatever the case, Joly informs us she will be moving forward with ‘humility’ and ‘audacity’. So take that out of Joly’s pipe and smoke it.

Feckless: In the Toronto Sun, Brian Lilley makes a similar point, with more vinegar, as does Terry Glavin, in the National Post.

Small teams: In the Star, Susan Delacourt reports on ministerial post-shuffle drinks at the Met, and takes note that Trudeau’s new cabinet appears to be a collection of little teams.

In short, there isn’t much room for lone wolves in the government Trudeau has reconstructed for his third term. And that even goes for the prime minister himself, who appears to have traded his old solo act for frequent double bills with Freeland. If the six years of Trudeau government was a TV series, critics might be saying that it has gone from a one-man show to an ensemble cast — kind of like the difference between seasons one and two in the Emmy-award winning show “Ted Lasso.” It’s a long way from 2015, when all the parts of the Trudeau cabinet revolved around one man and his celebrity power. After six years at the helm, Trudeau appears to like the team approach so much that he’s created many of them within one cabinet.

Straddling a fence: Erin O’Toole said Wednesday that his MPs will “respect and abide by” a Hill vaccine mandate but challenge it at the “earliest opportunity,”  CTV reports.

“A question of privilege will be raised in the House of Commons to challenge the improper conduct and precedent set,” O’Toole said. “Only the House of Commons itself can determine its composition and its conduct. Both before the Speaker or House rules, and after they rule, the entire Conservative caucus will respect and abide by all the rules and all health guidance,” O’Toole said.

Foolish, weak: In the Globe, Andrew Coyne ponders the Conservatives’ resistance to the vaccine mandate, and concludes that they seem to have a death wish.

One way or another, then, members of Parliament will be required to get vaccinated as a condition of entry – if not by last week’s vote of the Board of Internal Economy, then by a vote of the whole House. The Tories cannot stop it. All they can do is make themselves look foolish and their leader weak.

Hybrid House: Jagmeet Singh, on the other hand, says Canada should consider having a permanent hybrid Parliament, saying it would be better for women and parents, CP reports.

Singh said a hybrid parliament has been shown to work well during the pandemic and he thinks continuing it after the public health crisis subsides should be explored. “I think the hybrid parliament has opened up a door to more participation and allows for members of Parliament with young families and other obligations to participate and still fulfil those obligations and so I think it has opened up a new opportunity and I want to see it continue,” he told a news conference.

Inflation warning: Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem issued an inflation warning Wednesday and signalled that the bank may raise rates, CP reports.

We understand what our job is. Our job is to make sure that the price increases we’ve seen in many globally traded goods don’t feed through and translate into ongoing inflation and we’re going to do our job,” he told reporters at a late-morning press conference. “If there are new developments, we start to see that feed through, we will accelerate our actions to bring inflation back to target.”

Poor intelligence: In the Post, University of Ottawa Professor Wesley Wark reveals documents that show the Department of National Defence intelligence analysts were slow to warn political leaders of the threat of COVID-19.

Defence intelligence came to a series of wrong assessments about the threat posed by the outbreak in China. On the eve of the minister’s first briefing, a regular reporting product called the “Defence Intelligence Daily” concluded that the outbreak had been contained and that “significant disease spread outside China is unlikely.” The Chinese government was credited later in the month with being “open and transparent” in communicating information about the disease.

Enough, Jean: In the Post, Chris Selley takes Jean Chretien to task for his comments minimizing the harm done at residential schools.

Yet as of this week, it’s not even clear that Chrétien understands what the residential schools were. It’s difficult to pick the most calamitous moment in Chrétien’s Tout le monde en parle appearance, but it might have been when he likened his own boarding school experiences to those of Indigenous children. “In Shawinigan, we didn’t have a college. We had to go to Trois-Rivières or to Joliette,” he said. “We had no choice. … I ate baked beans and oatmeal. And to be sure, it was hard living in a boarding school, extremely hard.”

Conspiratorial news: A Leger poll conducted for Elections Canada finds most Canadians trust the elections agency but a surprisingly large number harbour conspiracy theories, Global reports.

The polling company found that two in five Canadians (40 per cent) considered it “definitely” or “probably true” that “certain significant events have been the result of the activity of a small group that secretly manipulates world events.”

Maclean’s live! Join Paul Wells TONIGHT at the NAC in Ottawa when he sits down with Anne McLellan and Lisa Raitt, who will be fresh from co-chairing their two-day summit, Coalition for a Better Future. If you’d like to attend in person (proof of vaccination required) register here. Tickets are free but limited!

— Stephen Maher