Top Conservative says Dykstra investigation plagued with perception problems


OTTAWA — The investigation of how the Conservative party handled a sexual-assault allegation against former Tory MP Rick Dykstra in the last federal election campaign is wrapping up, but a former top Conservative says the process has been flawed.

Dykstra denies any misconduct but resigned in January as the president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party after the years-old allegation was made public. But it then came out that federal Conservative party officials, including then-prime minister Stephen Harper, were told of the allegation during the 2015 campaign and allowed Dykstra to continue as a candidate.

He ultimately lost his St. Catharines seat and moved into provincial politics.

The federal Conservative party hired Toronto lawyer Carol Nielsen in March to review the events around the allegations and seek information to help the party create policies for such cases.

“The review is in the final stages and I expect a report will be issued in the near future,” she said.

Guy Giorno, who was the Conservative party’s national campaign chair during the 2015 election and Harper’s chief of staff before that, objects to the way interviews with witnesses have been recorded. He says there won’t be any tapes or transcripts of them, only notes.

Nielsen said she conducted the interviews and all interviewees got to review the notes to ensure their accuracy.

But according to Giorno, the person Nielsen chose to take the notes is a big part of the problem. Giorno said Evan Daikov, a junior lawyer, is the son of Jim Daikos, who Giorno says has been a supporter of Harper’s. (The two have slightly different last names.)

“The perception is bad. Perception is what matters. I have objected to Mr. Daikov’s involvement. Several times,” Giorno said.

“The son of Mr. Harper’s No. 1 backer in the Macedonian community when a key issue is ‘what did Stephen Harper know and when did he know it?’ Anybody who understands anything about perceived conflict would understand,” he said.

Giorno said he believes Daikov’s own ethics are above reproach, but “the optics suck.”

“The son of Jim Daikos taking the official record of Mr. Harper’s evidence? Not to mention everyone else’s evidence.”

Daikov said his father has volunteered with an organization called the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), and in 2010, was present when Harper received an award from the group.

Daikov said that as far as he knows, that was the only time his father has met the former prime minister.

“I am not and never have been a member of UMD and had no involvement in the aforementioned event. I have never met or had any dealings with Stephen Harper,” he said by email.

The Canadian Press was unable to reach Daikos. His son, Daikov, said he was unaware of any claim that there is a connection between Harper and his family.

Similarly, Nielsen said the suggestion that Daikov or his family has a relationship with the former prime minister has never been raised with her.

“I am wholly unaware of any such relationship and can certainly assure you that at no time did Mr. Daikov, or anyone else, disclose any such relationship or reason why he could not, or ought not, assist me with this project under my supervision,” said Nielsen.

Nielsen said Daikov resigned from her firm earlier this year and has not had any involvement with the investigation since.

However Giorno said he raised his objections in writing to Nielsen, and that his letter was met with silence. He said he hasn’t yet been interviewed for the investigation, but now has an appointment to meet with Nielsen.

Conservative party spokesman Cory Hann said the party hired Nielsen and her firm to do the review and left her to decide how to conduct it. Hann said there is no record of membership or of donations to the party from Daikos or Daikov.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Nielsen’s findings will be made public.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press