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Allegations levelled against the premier's office reveal culture problem within the UCP: expert

Last Updated Oct 28, 2021 at 7:18 pm MDT

University of Alberta Women’s and Gender Studies Professor Lise Gotell wasn’t surprised by the allegations of sexual harassment and a boozy workplace detailed in a lawsuit against the premier’s office.

“Given the record of this government on women’s issues and the often dismissive attitude displayed by Premier Kenney, it isn’t really surprising, unfortunately.”

RELATED: Former UCP staffer files lawsuit against premier’s office, alleges sexual harassment, heavy drinking

“As we saw with the earlier photo’s of the premier on the sky palace deck with his ministers and senior staffers drinking, it seems like there is a booze-fueled culture in the premier’s office, and perhaps, in the UCP caucus more widely”

Gotell says it almost seems like a “frat boy culture” and pointed to last years incident involving St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud.

“She complained that she was experiencing sexual harassment from another MLA on the floor of the house and she was ejected by the deputy speaker,” she said.

“We can also see it in the way that staffers have, on Twitter, harassed and gone after senior women academics who are making reasonable policy critiques of the government.”

Gotell added all this comes off as misogynistic and something that needs to be addressed by the government.

The allegations made by Arielle Kimmel’s are unfortunately not uncommon in many workplaces, and Gotell says you could link Kimmel’s claim to the current situation surrounding Sean Chu.

“There are old boy networks in many institutions and workplaces that have to protect primarily the men who have engaged in sexual harassment and sexual assault,” she said.

“We can definitely make links between these allegations brought forward by Kimmel and the Sean Chu situation by the fact that there have been several tweets that have surfaced with MLA’s and cabinet ministers, and cabinet ministers family members, supporting Sean Chu and minimizing the very serious allegations made against him.”

What Gotell says is needed is clear policies and procedures to manage allegations such as Kimmel’s.


In Kimmel’s statement of claim, she said the premier’s office, along with several other ministers, were made aware of the sexual comments made towards her, but the statement claims no action was taken.

Kimmel says in the claim that she was specifically told that Ivan Bernardo would not be fired and that he would instead be allowed to finish his contract, which would not be renewed.

During question period Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said he was informed last fall about what he called rumours of inappropriate comments made to female staff by a senior staff member.

“I was assured that action was being taken and shortly thereafter that individual’s contract ended with the government,” said Kenney.

“We are appointing an independent review to advise the government on how to improve human resources practices for political staff, so they know they are safe to come forward to report their experiences to ensure that action is taken.”

– With files from the Canadian Press