Liberal leader blasts his own three-term MLA over sexist comments
VANCOUVER -- Andrew Wilkinson posted an apology to Bowinn Ma, the NDP candidate for North Vancouver, on Twitter Sunday.
But it took two days for the Liberal leader to answer questions from the media about sexist, degrading remarks about Ma made by North Vancouver-Seymour Liberal incumbent Jane Thornthwaite during a roast for a retiring MLA.
"Many people who were at Ralph Sultan's retirement roast thought Jane's remarks were in exceptionally bad taste and showed poor judgment. I'm included in that. I was embarrassed to see those remarks being made," said Wilkinson at a campaign event Tuesday, where the Liberals unveiled their election platform.
In video of the online roast for Sultan, Thornethwaite describes what she said was Ma's interaction with the 87-year-old retiring MLA, calling her a "very pretty lady" and saying "she knows that she's got it, and she knows how to get Ralph going."
In telling a story about how Sultan would criticize Ma's policies to colleagues behind closed doors and respond differently to her in person, Thornthwaite said in the roast video: "Both Bowinn Ma and Ralph were stuck on the couch together, very, very close together for almost the entire time," which elicited a groan from Sultan.
"Ralph would be sitting in the middle of the couch, and Bowinn would be right up, right next to him, cuddling, cuddling, cuddling, a little bit of cleavage there. And Ralph would be enthralled with her."
Wilkinson didn't mince words, saying Thornthwaite's performance and choice of words were "so inappropriate that it was abundantly clear by the end of the roast that she made a fool of herself. They were hurtful words, they were sexist and inappropriate."
Thornthwaite was asked about the roast during an online campaign event in her home riding.
"I am devastated. I apologize. I am so sorry. I've apologized to Bowinn," she said. "It's not me, everybody that knows me knows that I advocate for women's rights."
Her reaction to the unusually harsh comments from her party's leader just 11 days before the election?
"I can't speak for Andrew, obviously I was disappointed, but I can't speak for him as well," she said. "I just have to concentrate on what I can do, and what I can say. "
Wilkinson said nothing about the sexist comments during the online roast, despite claiming he was embarrassed and appalled by them.
"I think we have all been in those scenarios where someone saying something inappropriate," he said. "This one was. For an 87-year-old gentleman who lives above, there was that sense of not wanting to ruin his evening. At the same time, being somewhat a taken aback at what was coming out of Jane's mouth."
Asked if he spoke to Thornthwaite after the event to express his disgust, Wilkinson said he did not.
"I didn't reinforce it that night because she knew that abundantly herself," he said. "I was embarrassed by it and perhaps in retrospect I should have spoken with her to never do that again. But I would think she learned that lesson on the spot because the event was an embarrassment for Ralph, it was an embarrassment for the people in the call, and she was embarrassed by her own performance."
Thornthwaite, who has held the North Vancouver-Seymour seat since 2009, says she's reached out to Ma, but hasn't heard back.
"It was all wrong," she said. "But I can commit to doing things better."