MRC PONTIAC – The MRC’s warden, Jane Toller, has hit a bit of rough water during the present provincial election campaign. A former employee has claimed Ms Toller, owner of Spruceholme Inn and the Pontiac Conference Centre in Fort Coulonge, threatened her job because the employee was considering running for the NDPQ party against the Liberal candidate, whom Ms Toller has supported. Toller claims the employee was not fired but re-assigned, to allow her more flexible time to campaign. The ex-employee is not pursuing the matter, nor is she running in the election.
Radio station CHIP 101.9 broke the story, September 12, reporting that Toller is the person referred to in an open letter published in The Pontiac Journal (“Des obstacles réels à la participation politique”) August 15, signed by members of the New Democratic Party of Quebec.
The letter alleges Toller threatened an un-named employee with a demotion and lay-off if she was to become a candidate in the election. The NDPQ letter claimed Toller had said it was unacceptable for an employee to occupy a management position and run against Liberal candidate André Fortin, who Toller has
CHIP reported that Pierre Ducasse, president of the NPD–Outaouais confirmed Toller’s identity but not the ex-employee, “who is just starting her professional career”.
In fact, the former employee, Jessica Bérard, signed the letter along with six others. She had quit her job and also stepped down as a possible candidate.
In a scrum with local press, September 17, Toller said she hadn’t seen the letter, otherwise she would have responded earlier. She called it “a biased, one-sided opinion”. Even though she didn’t address the specific charge laid by the NPDQ, she did explain that Bérard had worked for her in 2017 as a server and assisted the event manager, before returning to school last fall. Since the event manager left on maternity leave, October 2017, Toller said she’s had a “revolving door” of replacements.
Bérard was hired in May 2018 “just to get her [Toller] through the summer” until she returned to school, Toller stated. “When she spoke to me about the job, she didn’t say she intended to run politically. If she had, I wouldn’t have offered her the job because it’s very time-consuming, sometimes seven days a week,” Toller explained, having been a candidate in several elections herself.
Toller offered Bérard a job as a waitress, which she said gave her more time and flexibility, at exactly the same pay rate. She said Bérard had not asked for a leave of absence.
“She worked just a couple of days,” added Toller.
According to Toller, an “angry, disgruntled employee” is at the heart of the issue. “I’m an employer and have a very busy job as warden. I need to know that whoever is working there is [focusing] on the management work, otherwise my business will suffer … I was also concerned my business would turn into a campaign office.”
Jessica Bérard has confirmed with the Journal that she did not ask for a leave of absence, but also stated that she had worked there for more than “a few days”. No other action has been taken by Bérard.