Alberta’s UCP government has been responsible for so many dramatic boondoggles and disasters that we’d nearly forgotten they could be scummy in the banal, cheap way that men in power so often are. This week we are reminded, as Kenney and company scramble to handle allegations of sleaze and sexual harassment at the highest level of the adminstration.
The former chief of staff to Doug Schweitzer, Ariella Kimmel, has filed a wrongful dismissal suit against the premier’s office, and the allegations don’t leave the UCP looking very good. The scene recalls the worst of Alberta’s old-boys’-club politics, with heavy drinking all over the ministers’ offices, drunken cabinet members raging and screaming at staff, and powerful men sexually harassing the women who work there.
One particularly greasy series of events in Kimmel’s allegations really stands out. One of the staff under her supervision was sexually harassed by a senior political advisor—Ivan Bernardo—who had been drinking with others in office of Tyler Shandro, then the minister of health. Kimmel says she tried to report this up the chain several times but got nowhere. (If you’re wondering where you’ve heard that name before, Bernardo was the lawyer for ‘kamikaze candidate’ Jeff Callaway.) Finally she met with Jason Nixon. He told her the problem would be taken care of. It wasn’t.
There were no consequences for Bernardo. He fell into a very comfortable gig working with AHS (which has since been rescinded). And just a few weeks later, Kimmel was terminated. Funny how that keeps happening to women who report sexual harassment to Jason Nixon, isn’t it?
David Climenhaga, whose instincts I find very reliable, thinks we’re seeing a government imploding. We very well might be. Former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer says Kenney knew and did nothing, and is demanding he resign immediately. But if Kimmel’s allegations are true, there’s a lot more rot to clean out of the Legislature than just Jason Kenney.
Despite last week’s revelations that Calgary councillor Sean Chu was reprimanded for inappropriate sexual contact with a sixteen-year-old while he was a police officer—an incident the victim describes as a sexual assault—Chu took his seat in Calgary city council this week. On Sunday, a large protest decried Chu and demanded his resignation. Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Chu’s fellow councillors are in near-unanimous agreement that Chu’s presence is unacceptable, but seem to be at a loss as to how to actually get rid of him.
In the midst of all this sleaze it’d be easy to miss the release of the final report from Steve Allan’s bumbling inquiry into “anti-Alberta environmentalists”—it came out last Friday, immediately making international headlines as an embarrassment to both the province and the UCP. The final take away from the report: foreign funding of environmental NGOs in Alberta is actually quite small. In an average year, it added up to less than a tenth of the budget of Kenney’s ‘war room.’
- In Edmonton, Jonny Wakefield has composed a crucial piece of reporting on the city’s escalating anti-Muslim violence. Not every one of these incidents is as you might think—the actions of some hateful, privileged bigot. As Wakefield reports, many of these incidents instead involve marginalized folks suffering in some pretty brutal situations, which has some members of Edmonton’s Muslim community urging a nuanced approach. Edmonton’s newly-elected city council wants to move fast on doing something about these attacks; it is important that they understand that in many of these cases, anti-poverty measures may get to the root of things more effectively than a more typical anti-racism program.
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