Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer has called for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to resign following the dismissal of Ariella Kimmel from the provincial legislature.
The now former chief of staff for the minister of jobs, economy and innovation, Kimmel had reportedly come forward four times with complaints about sexual harassment, fabricated rumors of her leaking stories and heavy drinking by ministers and senior staff inside the legislature.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and a statement of defense has not yet been filed.
Aheer said since the statement of claim was filed on Oct. 1, several reports of inappropriate behavior have surfaced.
“This is about the failure of leadership to give a safe space to people who are staff and working, especially in politics, which can be toxic at the best of times,” said Aheer.
“This is just another one of those situations where we have a responsibility to lead and lead by example, especially when it comes to safe places for people to work, especially when you have a woman come forward with a situation around harassment.”
Following Kimmel’s dismissal, Aheer said the former chief of staff had also not been paid out for her contract, a move she referred to as “despicable.”
Aheer adds she wants to see a drastic culture shift happen, both to address the inappropriate behaviors, as well as how complaints are seen to and handled.
“I think it says a lot about everybody. It’s not a party thing … It’s not just a UCP issue, it’s an issue of what is happening within a lot of spaces. It’s just highlighted here because Ariella Kimmel had the courage to come forward and tell her story when she was ready,” said Aheer.
“We (need to) talk about it. We don’t put stigma on people who are coming forward, we make sure, especially when a woman like Ariela Kimmel comes forward, we listen to her and we believe her.”
As a starting point, Aheer suggested bringing in experts in the field to help determine why the culture of stigma towards victims exists and how it can be remedied.
She added that the behavior displayed by the Premier and of senior staff is a failure of their station and calls for immediate adjustment.
“Sexual assault, harassment, all of these things, these are measures of power that one person has, or several people have over another and you have to change the culture of that.
“I can tell you that based on the way that our leader led in this particular situation and didn’t give the opportunity for Ariella to have a safe space to land, it leads to that culture to continue,” said Aheer.
Kenney said in the legislature, an independent review would be appointed to advise the government with how to improve human resources practices and let political staff know that it is safe to come forward and report their experiences.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times