Harper knew of Dykstra allegations, says he couldn't justify dropping him

The former prime minister issued a statement after Maclean's reported new details on the Conservative decision to keep Dykstra as a candidate in the 2015 election

(Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Last week Rick Dykstra resigned as president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party after Maclean’s questioned him about allegations that he sexually assaulted a young female staffer in 2014. At the time Dykstra was a Conservative MP and in the 2015 federal election campaign operatives discussed whether to drop him as a candidate, before eventually allowing him to run.

On Friday night Maclean’s reported further details about the tense email exchanges between former prime minister Stephen Harper’s top aides over whether to keep Dykstra on as a candidate. Minutes after that story was published, Harper issued a statement on Twitter.

READ: Inside the explosive Conservative Party fight over Rick Dykstra

Read Harper’s statement below:

“I wish to address the issue of the handling of allegations against former MP Rick Dykstra.

When the allegations were brought to my attention during 2015 election campaign, I understood that the matter had been investigated by the police and closed a year prior. Given this understanding of the situation, I did not believe that I could justify removing him as a candidate.

Recently, much more information has come to light, including information to the effect that the original investigation may not have been complete. In my view, it is essential that criminal allegations, including this one, be fully investigated and prosecuted if warranted.

I have never hesitated to remove candidates or caucus members. My standard has been that either there are facts that justify such removal or allegations that trigger investigation. Sexual assault is a heinous crime and intolerable in any environment. Any allegation of this nature must be taken seriously, forwarded to the police, investigated and prosecuted.

There are at present discussions in organizations all over the world about how to protect sexual assault victims and encourage them to come forward. At the same time, we must have some basic standards of process to try to ensure fairness for all involved. This is a healthy conversation and I hope that it brings about positive change for everyone.”