thumb-2020-10-014 This article is more than 11 months old

BC Liberal Candidate: Stop Criticizing Sexist Video Objectifying NDP Candidate, It Was Just a ‘Joke’

‘Can you imagine if we held comedians to this standard?’

One of Andrew Wilkinson’s BC Liberal candidates says his colleague’s sexist remarks objectifying an NDP candidate are not worthy of public criticism because his colleague was just “joking” around.

This weekend, a leaked Zoom video recording of a retirement party in honour of Ralph Sultan showed BC Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite offering up sexist anecdotes about NDP candidate Bowinn Ma’s interactions with Sultan, prompting widespread condemnation across partisan lines.

While BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson dodged questions about the video over the weekend, his party’s Vancouver-West End candidate Jon Ellacott took to social media to argue with people criticizing the video, suggesting his BC Liberal colleagues were being unfairly criticized for telling “facetious jokes.”

Ellacott tweeted a photo of one of his campaigners the day after the video went public with the caption: “I’m glad our message is resonating with all residents in contrast to the divisive identity politics of the NDP.”

When challenged by another Twitter user over the “divisive identity politics” remark, Ellacott replied: “All the protestation is directed personally at the misrepresented facetious jokes of a few party insiders (it was a roast!) rather than the substance of the Liberal vs. NDP platforms.”

Later, Ellacott dismissed the sexist comments by saying his colleagues were “joking” and suggested comedians should not be held the same standard as politicians.

“They were joking – and however inappropriate their comments were and however terrible politicians are at comedy, can you imagine if we held comedians to this standard?,” he wrote.

Responding to a Vancouver Sun column critical of Wilkinson’s handling of the scandal, the BC Liberal candidate called the video a “fantastic tactic to distract from substantive policy” and suggested it was unfair to ask Wilkinson to apologize.

“How many times does @Wilkinson4BC need to apologize and condemn sexism and misogyny for the NDP to drop this clear attempt at obfuscation? A fantastic tactic to distract from substantive policy at the leaders debate tomorrow,” Ellacott wrote.

Neither Ellacott’s campaign nor the BC Liberal Party responded to requests for comment from PressProgress about his tweets.

The video shows Thornthwaite, the BC Liberal candidate for North Vancouver–Seymour, suggest the NDP’s Ma intentionally uses her physical attractiveness to get command the attention of the 87-year-old BC Liberal MLA.

“Bowinn is, you know, a very pretty lady, and she knows that she’s got it,” Thornthwaite said, before adding Ma “knows how to get Ralph going.”

At one point, Thornthwaite claims to have seen Ma “right up, right next to him, cuddling, cuddling.” Wilkinson is seen laughing along to Thornthwaite’s stories throughout the video.

During his party’s platform announcement Tuesday morning, Wilkinson said: “I have been blessed to have so many strong women in my life. That’s what makes the comments from Jane and my reaction to them so disappointing.”

“They were inappropriate and many people were embarrassed including me. I’ve apologized two days ago, as this episode should never have happened … I want to apologize to Bowinn Ma,” he added.

Asked why he did not intervene to stop the sexist remarks at the time, Wilkinson said he didn’t want to spoil Sultan’s evening: “There was that sense of not wanting to ruin his evening, but at the same time being somewhat taken aback at what was coming out of Jane’s mouth.”

“As the remarks proceeded, many of us were increasingly embarrassed to the point of being appalled. But it’s hard to stop the train in a social event when you don’t know what the next words will be.”

Following the original leak of the video, Ma issued a statement Sunday, reading in part:

“The video of BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson watching on as a multi-term BC Liberal North Shore MLA sexualized my interactions with another multi-term BC Liberal North Shore MLA is a deeply uncomfortable characterization of my efforts to extend kindness across partisan lines. However, this is not about me.

Young women deserve a province that encourages them to take on leadership roles without fear of sexism. If we want more young women and people of colour to enter politics, we must commit to creating environments that respect them. The comments and reactions in that video do the exact opposite.”


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