The Yukon Party has officially cut its ties with former Speaker David Laxton.
The party announced on Friday afternoon that it has dropped Laxton as its candidate in Porter Creek Centre in this year’s territorial election.
Laxton resigned as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and left the Yukon Party on May 10 over an allegation of sexual harassment.
A week earlier, he had announced he would seek re-election in Porter Creek Centre.
Though Laxton sat as an Independent MLA for the last two weeks of the session, it was unclear whether he would still run for the Yukon Party in the next election.
Now, Yukon Party President Linda Hillier says that won’t happen.
“The Yukon Party’s nomination application review committee has the authority to disallow a candidate at any time,” she said in a statement. “It is the belief of the committee that Mr. Laxton should no longer continue as a Yukon Party candidate.”
The party now plans to seek a new candidate for Porter Creek Centre.
Laxton revealed on May 19 that he had resigned over an allegation of sexual harassment from someone he said was a “long-time acquaintance.”
He said the incident occurred in February, when the woman came to meet with him in his office. As they were parting ways, he said, he hugged her and kissed her on the mouth twice. He said that “became a normal thing” over the years of their friendship, and it was never romantic.
Laxton has called for a third-party investigation of the incident, and has said he’s confident his name would be cleared.
But the Yukon Party caucus isn’t likely to launch an investigation of its own accord.
“It’s not clear to me … what kind of authority they would have to conduct an investigation,” said legislature clerk Floyd McCormick.
“The legislative assembly is no longer sitting, so I don’t know what could be done, what inclination there could be for anyone to do anything.”
Cabinet spokesperson Elaine Schiman refused to answer any questions about a possible investigation. Yukon Party President Linda Hillier did not respond to requests for comment.
McCormick contrasted Laxton’s case with the resignation of Haakon Arntzen from the Yukon Party in 2004 after he was charged with sexual assault.
“In that particular case, there was a criminal charge,” he said. “What happened was the RCMP conducted the investigation, and so it really didn’t involve the legislative assembly.”
Arntzen sat as an Independent MLA until September 2005, when he was convicted.
But in this case, it’s unclear whether any formal complaint has been made against Laxton. No criminal charges have been laid against him.
It is possible a complaint has been filed with the Yukon Human Rights Commission, but such complaints are not generally made public unless they are referred to a hearing.
And that process could easily take a year or more. Jessica Thompson, the commission’s director of human rights, said all matters currently set for hearings are based on complaints originally filed in 2014.
At this point, it’s unclear whether Laxton will run for office in the next election.
Since his resignation, he has expressed interest in running for re-election. But it seems that running as an Independent MLA is the only option he has left. The NDP and the Liberals have both now confirmed they will not work with him.
Laxton did not respond to requests for comment.
This isn’t the first time the Yukon Party has dumped an election candidate over sexual harassment allegations.
In 2011, the party cut ties with Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes candidate Gerrard Fleming after discovering he’d been fired by an Ontario company for addressing female subordinates with sexually charged profanities.
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