Trudeau says he's 'pretty frustrated' by the Raj Saini scandal

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Raj Saini, the Liberal candidate for Kitchener Centre, is ending his campaign for re-election after a series of allegations of unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments were made public this week.  (Facebook/Raj Saini - image credit)
Raj Saini, the Liberal candidate for Kitchener Centre, is ending his campaign for re-election after a series of allegations of unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments were made public this week. (Facebook/Raj Saini - image credit)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Sunday he will be reflecting on what should have been done differently in the case of former Liberal candidate Raj Saini, who ended his bid for re-election after a series of allegations of unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments were made public last week.

"I'm pretty frustrated about the whole thing myself," Trudeau said during a campaign stop in Mississauga, Ont., on Sunday.

CBC News reported the allegations against Saini Tuesday, after seven sources with knowledge of the complaints spoke about four different instances of the then member of Parliament allegedly making unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments toward Liberal staffers.

Sources said a senior member of the government first brought concerns about allegations at a Liberal holiday party six years ago to the Prime Minister's Office and Justin Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford.

Facebook/Raj Saini
Facebook/Raj Saini

Trudeau had initially defended his party's decision to allow Saini to run, saying "there have been rigorous processes undertaken" after an allegation was made against Saini.

But in a statement released by the Liberals on Saturday, the party reversed course.

"Yesterday, a review process was initiated after new information was directly provided to the Liberal Party of Canada. Mr. Saini will no longer be a Liberal candidate," the statement reads.

Trudeau would not confirm the nature of the new allegations, how many or when exactly the party became aware of the allegations.

Saini, who denies all the allegations as "unequivocally false," said Saturday that he would no longer be running to win his seat.

On Sunday, Trudeau was asked if he had regrets about how he handled the situation.

"Obviously this is a far from ideal situation that we no longer have any candidate in that riding. There's going to be lots of reflections on what we could, should have done differently," he said.

He repeated that the party had a process in place.

"We can only apply that process and reflect on are there ways to improve that process. And I can't even talk about the details of what was put forward, what happened on this allegation or that allegation. Suffice to say, we had a process that was rigorously followed, which is an unsatisfactory answer and I understand people being angry about it. I'm pretty frustrated about the whole thing myself."

WATCH | Trudeau expresses frustration at problems dealing with Raj Saini situation:

The deadline to file nomination forms with Elections Canada has already passed, meaning the Liberals will not be able to field another candidate in the riding and Saini, who won the seat in 2019 by almost 6,000 votes ahead of Green Party candidate Mike Morrice, will remain on the ballot.

Trudeau said Saini will not be a member of the Liberal Party caucus regardless of what happens election day.

At a press conference earlier Sunday in Ottawa, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Saini's decision to end his re-election bid was another case of Trudeau failing to show leadership.

"What this situation has shown, with Mr. Saini himself deciding to pull out of the race, is again Mr. Trudeau not acting," Singh said. "And that's been the problem in a lot of cases."

The NDP leader said "nothing was done" about Saini despite allegations having been raised a while ago. Leaders should be proactive and send clear messages that women raising such concerns are heard and do not suffer in silence, he said.

"So it shows really clearly the inaction of Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals," Singh said. "That's something wrong."

Conservative Candidate Michelle Rempel Garner sent a letter to Clerk of the House of Commons Charles Robert Sunday asking him to look into whether the complainant was prevented or steered away from an investigation under the Board of Internal Economy's Members of the House of Commons Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy.

"I have questions about a culture of cover up in the Trudeau government," said Leader Erin O'Toole.

"It clearly extends to decisions they made about allowing candidates to run in previous elections and ignoring complaints from victims."

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