EDMONTON — The leader of the United Conservatives in Alberta says the party will rigorously vet prospective candidates for conduct related to sexual harassment or aggression.
Jason Kenney, a former federal Conservative MP, was sworn in on Monday as a member of the legislative assembly after winning a Calgary byelection in December.
The United Conservative Party caucus has been meeting in Edmonton and discussed several issues, including recent allegations of sexual harassment against politicians.
“I spoke to our caucus about this yesterday, given the current context, and re-emphasized that our party and caucus has a zero-tolerance approach toward sexual misconduct,” Kenney said Tuesday during a news conference.
He was responding to questions about the #MeToo movement, which has brought down movie producers, actors, journalists and politicians as women go public with long-suppressed complaints about sexual misconduct.
Kenney said he’s pleased to see that the Alberta legislature already has protocols in place to deal with sexual harassment.
“I do hope that this important movement, both in politics and other walks of life, that women and others who have been subject to any form of sexual aggression or harassment feel empowered to come forward to share their stories,” he said.
Kenney said the pre-screening of potential candidates will include conduct related to harassment or sexual aggression.
“If we identify that kind of misconduct on the part of an applicant for a nomination, we will red light them,” he said. ”They would not be permitted to proceed.”
Kenney said his party will also attempt to attract more women candidates, but noted that he doesn’t believe in quotas.
“People don’t need special privilege, they need equal opportunity,” he said, noting they can work to level the playing field by providing training and mentoring for women who have no political experience.
The United Conservative Party’s stance on women’s issues has come into question in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, a member of the party stated that “ideological marches like the one in Washington” do not empower women. She added that the last time she checked everyone had the same rights in society, and the march lacked clarity and purpose.
Dozens of marches were held in communities across Canada, a year after women’s marches that sprang up around the globe in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president.
Following the marches, which were also held in Edmonton and Calgary, Kenney added his own voice to the discussion.
“Proud that the United Conservatives have so many strong, outspoken women as members. Our party doesn’t force conformity. Members are free to hold differing views,” Kenney tweeted.
He stood by those comments Tuesday, adding he doesn’t have an issue with women’s marches.