HALIFAX — The president of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party says she was told by “multiple sources” about a single incident involving inappropriate behaviour by former leader Jamie Baillie.
Tara Miller released a statement as calls intensified Friday for more information on why Baillie was suddenly dismissed from his post on Wednesday.
“I was made aware by multiple sources of allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Mr. Baillie toward one individual,” said Miller. “The only incident for which the allegation was made took place in December 2017. The PC Party promptly took action upon becoming aware of the allegation.”
Baillie was forced to quit after an investigation found he acted inappropriately and breached the legislature’s policy on workplace harassment.
On Wednesday Miller said the Tories launched an independent, third-party probe into Baillie’s behaviour after a sexual harassment claim was brought to their attention late last month by a staff person. She said caucus then gave its support to the party’s decision to seek Baillie’s resignation.
Her Friday statement clarified how the party proceeded in relation to the legislature’s harassment policy, which sets up a process that neither the “individual nor Baillie” chose to follow. But the party felt the allegations were serious enough that they warranted an investigation “due to the position of public trust the party holds,” she said.
Miller said an experienced, third-party Halifax-based lawyer conducted an investigation, and Baillie and the individual “participated fully” and were represented by legal counsel.
She said the lawyer used definitions from the legislature’s policy to make findings which concluded that Baillie was in breach.
“Those findings were delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The PC Party of Nova Scotia requested and accepted the immediate resignation of Mr. Baillie on Wednesday, Jan. 24,” Miller said. “The findings are a privileged report that will not be made publicly available, in order to protect the identity of the individual.”
The statement came as the party was besieged with media requests for more information and calls from political observers who say the public has a right to know more.
“Speculation is often worse than reality,” Barbara Emodi, who teaches crisis communications at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, said in an interview.
“You are in a crisis and none of it is nice. Not talking about it is not going to make it nice, so I think both the party and Jamie Baillie really need to come clean.”
Emodi, who previously served as communications manager for the provincial NDP caucus between 2001 and 2007, said it would be the best thing for the Tories’ image to do something quickly because it’s an issue that can’t be left hanging during a leadership campaign.
“You can’t go into a leadership convention with all this hanging over you,” she said.
She said Baillie has had a public image as being ethical and needs to come forward with some clarity for the sake of his own reputation.
“You really do have to tell your own story and the only way to wrap this up for anyone involved is to get all of it out.”
Baillie announced last fall that he would step down after serving as Tory leader since 2010, but said he would remain in the post until a new leader was chosen.
Emodi said although she realizes there are concerns around protecting the identity of the woman who made the claim against Baillie, public attitude has shifted because of the behaviour that has been exposed in various fields over the last year.
“The public atmosphere has changed dramatically and rapidly and there is no sense of victim shaming anymore in any of this,” she said. “If anything women are seen as heroes for doing this and bringing this kind of behaviour to a stop.”
Baillie also resigned as the member for Cumberland South, and Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday that he would deal with a byelection once he returns from a 10-day trade mission to Asia.
“I’ll give it some thought,” said McNeil. “Typically when I’ve had to call byelections I haven’t waited that long.”
McNeil has six months to set a date for a byelection under provincial law, and the vote itself can be set up to another six months after that.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
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