Conservative Leader O'Toole calls for probe of dissident MP Shannon Stubbs over alleged staff mistreatment – The Globe and Mail

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Conservative Member of Parliament Shannon Stubbs rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 8, 2021.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has asked the House of Commons to investigate workplace harassment complaints against Alberta MP Shannon Stubbs, including an allegation that she pressured employees to paint her house.
Mr. O’Toole’s office went to both the Commons human-resources office and the Commons administration office on Friday after The Globe and Mail inquired about the large turnover among Ms. Stubbs’s staff. This included two aides who said they went on mental-health sick leave after experiencing verbal abuse and workplace harassment.
The Globe is not identifying the two aides, who asked that their names be kept confidential. Both said they would co-operate with the House of Commons inquiry.
In an interview, Ms. Stubbs denied the allegations of abusive behaviour, saying she is a victim of retaliation for being one of the dissidents in the Conservative caucus calling for an early review of Mr. O’Toole’s leadership.
One of the former aides, who took sick leave in 2018, said she and another employee felt compelled to paint the Alberta MP’s bedroom in late 2016. The aide said Ms. Stubbs did not directly order them to paint the room in her Vegreville house, but that their work environment would have become unpleasant if they did not do so.
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Ms. Stubbs acknowledged that staff painted her bedroom, but she said she considered it a gift, and that she was surprised to return home to the freshly painted room.
“The painting of the house was a wonderful surprise that I didn’t know about. It was a wonderful gift of kindness from staff members,” Ms. Stubbs said. “I never asked or directed staff to paint my bedroom.”
House of Commons rules do not allow MPs to use parliamentary and constituency employees to perform personal chores, private business or errands unrelated to an MP’s duties.
“With respect to the allegations of improper use of taxpayer resources and staff, this information has been referred to the House of Commons Administration,” Mr. O’Toole’s communications director Josie Sabatino said in a statement.
Ms. Sabatino said Mr. O’Toole’s office heard in January about alleged abusive treatment of Ms. Stubbs’s staff, such as yelling and demeaning behaviour, but was assured by the MP that the “rumours were baseless.”
But when informed of “these specific and extremely serious allegations” by The Globe on Friday, Ms. Sabatino said, Mr. O’Toole’s office reached out to the House of Commons to investigate.
“Workplace harassment, abuse and improper use of taxpayer resources is completely unacceptable and not tolerated,” Ms. Sabatino said. “The Leader of the Official Opposition expects the Member to cooperate fully with the House of Commons and address these extremely serious and troubling allegations.”
The two former staff members said Ms. Stubbs would yell at them, and that she called them at all hours and constantly found fault with their work.
Ms. Stubbs, who has gone through at least 17 staff members since first being elected in the riding of Lakeland in 2015, said she has “never yelled, demeaned or belittled” her staff.
Ms. Stubbs said she has no idea why the two staffers went on sick leave, but they said they were only “two out of dozens” of employees who have worked in her parliamentary and constituency offices.
Other former staffers, however, said they experienced similar verbal and emotional abuse.
“I never quite experienced that level of psychological abuse,” said David Parker, who worked for Ms. Stubbs for less than a year starting in 2016, and who once worked for Stephen Harper and cabinet minister Rona Ambrose.
“It wasn’t a daily or even weekly occurrence, but yeah she definitely threw things, slammed doors, yelled. … You couldn’t get nights off because you were getting streams of abusive texts from her. Something was always wrong. Nothing was good enough.”
Josiah Martinosk, who worked for Ms. Stubbs from 2016 to 2017, said the atmosphere in her parliamentary office could be toxic.
“She berated us as a team,” he said. “It was a toxic culture. When I was there we were all on edge. There was an emotional volatility that would affect the entire office.”
Jordan Paquet, who worked with Ms. Stubbs for four months last year, phoned The Globe to say he “got along extremely well” with the MP and “didn’t notice anything untoward. No abuse or anything like that.”
“She was very committed to her constituents. An extremely hard worker and dedicated MP,” he said. He added that Mr. Parker supported Mr. O’Toole in the 2020 leadership race, while Ms. Stubbs, a close friend of former leader Andrew Scheer, stayed neutral.
Tina Warawa, who runs Ms. Stubbs’s constituency office, also had high praise for her boss: “She is a hard-charger, but she is not abusive. She always tries to elevate us.”
Once a rising star, Ms. Stubbs was among a handful of MPs who were recently stripped of their shadow cabinet roles for their criticism of Mr. O’Toole’s performance during the summer election.
The two political aides who went on sick leave said they were overwhelmed by the mental stress of working for Ms. Stubbs.
One of them complained to the Commons human-resources office after Ms. Stubbs fired her right after she came back from sick leave in 2016.
She said she was not surprised when the HR office did not do anything. The office, she said, has a reputation for not getting involved in how MPs treat their staff.
The second employee, who went on sick leave in 2018, said she did not lodge a complaint because of concerns about confidentiality. Commons human-resources rules require party whips to be informed of staff complaints about MPs in their caucuses. At the time, the Conservative whip was Mark Strahl, a close friend of Ms. Stubbs.
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