Notley says NDP considering hiring independent firm following calls for investigation

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Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Thursday her party is considering hiring an independent firm to look into how internal harassment complaints are handled.

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Speaking at an independent press conference in Calgary, Notley said that if the provincial council agrees at a meeting this weekend, they will find an “independent body that specializes in investigation, mediation and dispute resolution.” complaints of respect and harassment in organizations”.

She said the aim is to provide a safer place for staff and volunteers to raise concerns.

“The party is our volunteers, so we work as hard as we can, and it’s my responsibility to make sure we have systems in place that people feel safe,” she said.

It comes after Notley emailed members on Wednesday acknowledging that the NDP had “failed” to provide a safe and respectful environment for volunteers and staff, although he did not specify how. The email also notes that the party has been working on updating its anti-harassment policy since fall 2021.

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Despite Notley’s assurances, former NDP volunteers say they aren’t convinced it will go far enough to address the issues some have publicly raised the alarm about, including allegations of mistreatment and verbal abuse by the part of the staff.

Sharie Valentine, speaking to Postmedia on Thursday after the press conference, expressed skepticism that the party will get to the bottom of the matter as it focuses on winning the 2023 election.

“Because it’s been so long and so much has been swept under the rug, I think some of the staff are just part of the rug now,” she said.

“Advice is performative, just like an HR policy,” she said.

Brandon Beavan, another former volunteer, told Postmedia he wasn’t very confident the metrics would solve the problems.

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“As long as violent men remain employed with them, everything they say rings hollow to me,” Beavan said, adding that serious structural changes would have to be made to the party before he considered returning as a leader. volunteer.

Beavan said the latest timeline of a promised anti-harassment policy didn’t match.

“I was contacted about them revising the harassment policy in 2020 earlier this year, and nothing ever came of it.”

Krista Li, a former riding association president, called Notley’s email “dishonest” as the NDP still employs staff at the center of some of the allegations.

“You can’t keep going through people like they’re matchsticks. Very, very, very, very good people left this party,” Li said.

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Notley’s comments on Thursday come after 15 precinct presidents and regional vice presidents wrote a letter to Notley and the rest of the party executive in March calling for an independent investigation into what they called a pattern of bad treatment of volunteers.

They also said there were concerns about how candidates were selected in the nomination contests, with long waits for some possible candidates, leading to questions of possible favouritism.

The letter also flagged the concerns of riding association presidents who were unaware of the issues and that their input was not taken seriously above.

Wyatt Tanton, a volunteer who previously stood to become the party’s Camrose candidate, said the party needed clear, tough and unavoidable rules on misconduct that ensured issues were resolved.

“It’s a party that’s intent on forming a government that doesn’t seem to have a good way of dealing with what happens if a guy from that party has a power trip,” Tanton said.

When asked by a reporter, Notley declined to describe generally how the party had “failed”.

“I think most of the issues that are at issue are already in the public sphere,” she said.

With files from The Canadian Press

ljohnson@postmedia.com

twitter.com/reportrix

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