Photo: UCP MLA Jason Nixon endorsing Jason Kenney’s bid for the leadership of the United Conservative Party.
United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney is expected to slide to an easy victory in Thursday’s by-election in Calgary-Lougheed. But the skies over Kenney’s victory parade will be gloomy thanks to an Edmonton Journal investigation which uncovered UCP Legislative Assembly leader Jason Nixon fired a female employee after she complained about sexual harassment on a construction site.
In 2009, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal awarded more than $30,000 to the female safety officer who was terminated by Nixon four days before Christmas in 2005.
Nixon was first elected as the Wildrose Party MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre in 2015.
Nixon’s role in terminating the employee came to light as the Legislative Assembly continues to debate Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans. The bill modernizes Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation Board laws, many of which have not been updated since the 1970s. Important components of Bill 30 expand the responsibility of employers in preventing violence and harassment in the workplace.
The UCP opposes Bill 30 and, as its leader in the Assembly, Nixon has lead the Official Opposition’s charge against it.
While Kenney issued a written statement in an attempt to blame the firing on Nixon’s age (he was 25-year old at the time) and criticize the NDP for attacking the UCP MLA’s “personal integrity,” Premier Rachel Notley responded directly to the issue of sexual harassment:
Text of Notley’s statement:
As I’m sure will come as no surprise to all of you, in my view, this is a very, very serious issue. We are at an important time right now, where courageous women across North America are coming forward to talk about the problem of sexual harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s a very difficult problem. We know it proliferates everywhere, and it’s not easy to address. What we do know, though, what’s going to keep women safe, what’s going to help deal with this problem, is assuring as a first step is assuring that they know they have the right to speak up, and that people will support them when they speak up. Mr. Nixon’s response when someone spoke up was to fire her. That is not the right response. Moreover, since that time, Mr. Nixon has gone into the House and fought against a bill that would have protected someone in Alberta in the very same situation as the woman that Mr. Nixon chose to fire. Mr. Kenney is actually the person that needs to answer questions about this now. This is his hand-picked lieutenant. His hand-picked political lieutenant who is leading the caucus in this House, who fired a woman for speaking up against sexual harassment which was found to have happened, who is now fighting against a bill that would protect women in Alberta from the very same sexual harassment in the workplace. This is very, very serious. I think when women wake up this morning and read this article and hear more about what’s happened, they’re going to wonder where their government stands, and I want them to know that their government stands with them, and that is why we’re working so hard to get this bill through the House today.
Kenney gave no indication in his written statement if he plans to remove Nixon from his role as the UCP’s leader in the Legislative Assembly and critic for Democracy and Accountability before MLA’s adjourn for the Christmas break – and voters go to the polls in Calgary-Lougheed – on Thursday.