11/18/2014 03:42 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST

Hill harassment: Board of Internal Economy has 'no mandate' to look into complaints

The all-party panel responsible for overseeing House administration has rejected a Liberal Party request to bring in an outside investigator to look into harassment allegations that led party Leader Justin Trudeau to suspend MPs Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti from caucus last month.

In a brief statement delivered just before question period, Board of Internal Economy spokesman John Duncan said discussion during Tuesday's closed-door confab was "productive."

"The board was able to agree on interim measures and will be implementing some immediate changes," he noted, including allowing MPs and staff to use the informal dispute resolution process managed by House administration.

"Ultimately, the House itself has responsibility for pronouncing on the conduct of its members," Duncan noted.

As such, he said, the board has also asked the Speaker to refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee, which will report back with its recommendations on "appropriate disciplinary processes" for complaints involving MPs.

Concerns about fairness

But neither the board nor the committee is prepared to launch a full probe into the specific complaints lodged against Andrews, who represents the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon, and Pacetti, who represents the Quebec riding of Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel, by two as-yet-unnamed NDP MPs.

"The board does not have a mandate for member-to-member conflicts," Duncan explained.

As such, he agreed the two MPs "are in limbo until the logjam is broken," but noted that the board "is not empowered to do that."

He pointed out that the four MPs involved could avail themselves of the mediation resources available through House administration, although he admitted that such a move would be difficult without a formal complaint, which the board has been told is unlikely to happen.

"The more we have a policy in place, the more pressure … there will be on the four individuals involved to be a party to such a policy," he predicted.

"I do have concerns about fairness," he said.

"That's why it's important that we move very quickly to create a process — so that we don't end up here again. The fact is, I've been here for almost 20 years. I've never seen this before, and I hope never to see it again."