OTTAWA—MPs on the cocktail circuit must be cautious about alcohol consumption as Parliament Hill looks to put an end to inappropriate behaviour and tackle sexual misconduct, says Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.
So, too, should political staff members, adds a woman who once worked for the federal New Democrats.
Bennett, who has spent more than 20 years as a Liberal MP, said parliamentarians of all stripes frequently are engaging with other politicians and staff, adding every effort must be made to clean up the culture of the institution.
“We should set the highest possible standards for ourselves in order to be able to demonstrate the culture of the House of Commons . . . is an example that all other institutions should emulate,” she said in an interview.
Bennett, who was part of a special Commons' committee that worked during the last Parliament on a code of conduct designed to prevent sexual misconduct among MPs, said members of Parliament are, in many respects, working all the time and need to be extra careful about their behaviour.
“You wouldn't have a drink before you go to a really important meeting,” she noted.
“I think there is obviously truly social events but then a lot of events that take place on the Hill—I don't think people should have too much to drink at those events.”
But a bigger issue than MPs drinking too much is the use of alcohol by men to make their intended targets more pliable, says former NDP staffer Lauren Dobson-Hughes, who alleges she faced routine sexual misconduct in her seven years on the Hill.
“The only way I'm interested in talking about alcohol and assault is how men push it on women, using it as a tool to make women vulnerable,” she wrote Friday on Twitter.
Alcohol was a factor that led to sexual misconduct allegations levelled against Patrick Brown, who resigned Thursday as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives just months before a provincial election.
Two women, interviewed by CTV News but not identified, alleged Brown made sexual advances on them while he was a federal politician, after the women had been drinking.
The women said Brown, who categorically has denied the allegations, had not been drinking at the time.
Bennett, an outspoken feminist, also said she hopes movements like #MeToo and allegations, including those facing Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and Toronto-based director Albert Schultz, will cause men to look hard at their past and present behaviours.