In light of accusations of sexual misconduct against former Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party leader Patrick Brown, Imprint spoke with Waterloo Region MPPs Catherine Fife (New Democratic Party) and Daiene Vernile (Liberal Party) on the issue, and the steps that can be taken to eliminate the problem that persists not only in politics, but in every industry.
On Jan. 24, CTV News reported allegations from two women citing incidents of sexually inappropriate behaviour they faced from Brown during his time as a federal MP. While there weren’t any reports of Brown’s misconduct prior to CTV’s story, Vernile says there was “chatter” around Queen’s Park about the allegations against Brown.
Fife, on the other hand, did not hear anything herself, noting that Brown was unusually “isolated” as a leader. “He was not overly personable,” Fife said, “so my exchanges with him were very limited.”
While reports indicate the incumbent Liberals — who were set to face a major challenge in the upcoming Jun. 7 election under Brown’s high-polling PCs — were gleeful over the accusations, Vernile says that is not the reality.
“If you saw the way that my premier Kathleen Wynne reflected on this, the comments that she made were to reflect on the bravery of the women who came forward, who spoke about this. Our response to this was to be measured. This is not a time to score cheap political points.”
Vernile went on to say harassment is an issue more specific to the PCs, citing a “systemic” problem within the party, which governed Ontario for over 40 years straight. “I see it often coming from that party,” the Kitchener Centre MPP said. “I think that party has an issue with sexism.”
However, Fife disagrees with Vernile’s view of the issue at Queen’s Park. “Well that’s where Daiene Vernile is wrong,” insisted the Kitchener-Waterloo MPP. “Sexual harassment is not limited to one party and nor should this be a partisan issue.”
“There is a culture in politics, which for many, many years has seen very few women,” Fife said, going on to offer a solution to the problem. “There are only 38 female MPPs out of 107, so it’s going to take a significant influx of women to enter the political arena to change the culture of politics.”
Vernile says the right steps are already being taken. “You’ve got women who are calling it out,” she said, “which I think is important. If you can point a finger at it and call it out for what it is, that it’s inappropriate, has no place — not only in politics — that’s a start.”
Imprint reached out to PC MPPs in the region for comment, but they were not able to schedule interviews at this time.