Candidate resigns from BC Liberals after eugenics comments
VANCOUVER -- A BC Liberal candidate from the Fraser Valley has resigned from the party after making an inflammatory comment comparing free contraceptives to eugenics.
Laurie Throness, who is running for re-election in Chilliwack-Kent, made the remark while addressing the NDP's promise of free contraceptives during an all-candidates debate on Wednesday.
"It contains a whiff of the old eugenics thing where, you know, poor people shouldn't have babies," Throness said. "And so we can't force them to have contraception, so we'll give it to them for free."
The comments drew outcry online, and on Thursday BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said they were "not in keeping with the values of the BC Liberal party or my own values."
"Those statements about contraception were completely wrong," Wilkinson said. "I therefor accepted Laurie Throness's resignation as a candidate for the BC Liberal Party in the upcoming election, and we will move forward without him as a candidate."
Throness will remain on ballot
Though he is no longer officially the Liberal candidate for Chilliwack-Kent, Throness will still be on ballots in the riding.
A spokesperson for Elections BC confirmed to CTV News Vancouver that the deadline for a party to withdraw its endorsement of a candidate is the close of candidate nominations, which happened on Oct. 2.
Likewise, the deadline for a candidate to withdraw on their own is 48 hours before the start of advance voting, which began Thursday.
"Under the Election Act there is no way for his candidacy to be withdrawn at this stage of the election," Elections BC said in an email. "The Election Act does not require Mr. Throness to take down his campaign signs as a result of today’s announcement."
What happens if Throness wins re-election to the seat he has held since 2013 remains to be seen, but his resignation as a candidate means it's unlikely he would sit as a member of the Liberal caucus in the next B.C. legislature. He would most likely sit as an independent.
Throness was re-elected with more than 50 per cent of the votes in the riding in 2017, a comfortable 20 percentage points ahead of the NDP candidate, who placed second.
A controversial figure
Throness has been a lightning-rod for controversy in recent months, drawing criticism not only from his political opponents, but also from his fellow BC Liberal MLAs for his defence of a Christian magazine that published articles supporting so-called conversion therapy for homosexuality.
NDP candidate Selina Robinson shared the video of Throness' comments on Twitter before the candidate's resignation, asking, "What is it going to take for Wilkinson to fire him?"
Asked during a media appearance later in the day why he hadn't "fired" Throness, Wilkinson said doing so "proved to be unnecessary."
"When we spoke, he resigned voluntarily," the Liberal leader said.
"We have spent a considerable amount of time making it clear that we work with people of faith in this party and understand that there's a broad range of views in British Columbia on a number of issues," Wilkinson added. "But on this particular issue and with this particular candidate, things have reached a turning point."
BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau issued a statement criticizing Wilkinson's response to both the current controversy and previous ones involving Throness. She said the BC Liberal leader had showed "a lack of leadership."
"Andrew Wilkinson’s approach to this entire controversy sends entirely the wrong message," Furstenau said. "Only when the party was backed into a corner did they take the weakest of actions: accepting Laurie Throness’s resignation. He should have been expelled from the BC Liberal Party.”
Devon Black, a lawyer and co-founder of AccessBC, a campaign aimed at ensuring that contraception is available for free in British Columbia, said she found the candidate's comments "frustrating."
"It's frustrating to see someone who has been in a position to make decisions about women's health clearly not have an understanding of what it means to have a free choice to make reproductive decisions," Black told CTV News Vancouver. "It's also really frustrating to see Mr. Throness speaking as though he is an advocate for people in poverty when he is opposing a proposal that will save people thousands of dollars over the course of their lives."
The BC NDP has promised to ensure that prescription contraception, such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices, is covered under the province's medical services plan. Currently, vasectomies are covered, but prescription contraception is not.
Wilkinson said Thursday that he supports government providing free contraception to anyone who wants it, and that the BC Liberals would pursue such a policy if they win the election and form the province's next government.
Black said she was happy to hear of the Liberals' support for the policy.
"Studies show that almost everybody benefits from access to free contraception," Black said. "Obviously, people who can get pregnant benefit from being able to plan their own futures and take care of their own health, but their partners benefit from it as well. Their communities benefit from it because then you've got people who are in a better position to make decisions that are going to work within their families' financial needs."