Leaked video of BC Liberals insulting NDP's Bowinn Ma shows sexism, observers say
VANCOUVER -- A leaked video from a BC Liberals’ online Zoom event is drawing condemnation from observers who say the comments made toward NDP candidate Bowinn Ma are sexist.
The video, posted to Twitter by a Vancouver podcast host on Saturday night, shows BC Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite insulting Bowinn Ma, who is running for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.
In the video, Thornthwaite, the candidate for North Vancouver-Seymour, is attempting to “roast” Ralph Sultan, a fellow BC Liberal, for what she alleges is his attraction to Ma, a member of the BC NDP. The comments came during an online Zoom event that was held as a celebration for Sultan who had announced he is leaving politics.
Ma, Thornthwaite and Sultan are all former MLAs and worked at the same time in the B.C. legislature. Ma and Thornthwaite are seeking re-election.
“Bowinn is very pretty lady (sic), and she knows that she’s got ‘it,’ and she knows how to get Ralph going.”
Thornthwaite says that Ma and Sultan were at a community event together, and ridicules Ma’s behaviour towards Sultan.
“Both Bowinn Ma and Ralph were stuck on the couch together, very, very close together for almost the entire time … But Bowinn knows how to get you (Ralph) … Bowinn would be right up next to him, cuddling, (some) cleavage there.”
Eight other Liberal party members are also on the call, including leader Andrew Wilkinson, and many of them laugh along. In the leaked video clip, no Liberal party speak out against Thornthwaite’s comments.
Ma responded with a lengthy post on Twitter late Sunday morning, saying she wants young women to be able to take on political roles or work in male-dominated industries without fear of sexism.
"Like many women in these situations, I found myself making choices about the way that I act, dress or carry myself to avoid having sexist interpretations read into my interactions -- interactions such as, for instance, deliberately speaking closely with an elder who is very hard of hearing," reads Ma's post.
Ma said Thornthwaite had sexualized her friendliness and attempts at political co-operation.
"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," continues Ma in her post.
The video attracted a swift response from B.C. voters, political observers, and politicians, who suggested the comments are sexist. Among them is former Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer who said that the comments made in the video are an example of why young women are deterred from going into politics.
Joe Tong, a professor of education at the University of B.C. said the attack on Ma, who is a young woman of colour, will be painful for other young people of colour to witness.
BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau condemned the comments as “appalling.”
Thornthwaite responded via Twitter on Sunday morning, about 12 hours after the video was posted. She said she has “huge respect” for all women in politics.
In her first post Thornthwaite did not apologize for her comments directed at Ma, but later in the morning she followd up with another post saying she had reached out to Ma to apologize.
CTV News Vancouver has reached out to both Ma and Thornthwaite for interviews.
Note: An earlier version of this story said Ralph Sultan was running for re-election. This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Sultan had announced he is reitiring from politics.