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News
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BC Election 2020
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Rights + Justice
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BC Politics
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Gender + Sexuality

‘Shame, Shame on Jane’

BC Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite’s sexist jokes about NDP MLA Bowinn Ma ignite outrage.

Robyn Smith 11 Oct 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Robyn Smith is editor of The Tyee.

“I’m usually a BC Liberals supporter, but I attended an event that included some talk about Bowinn Ma that bothered me,” read the email to B.C. political commentator Mo Amir, who shared it on Twitter.

“I’m sharing it with you because we need more young women in politics, and this kind of thing needs to be called out. I hope you can help.”

And called out it was.

What Amir shared was Zoom footage of a virtual political roast held on Sept. 17 for long-time BC Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan, who is not running again this election.

In the footage, BC Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite, joined by several fellow Liberals including party leader Andrew Wilkinson, launches into her “roast” of Sultan by recounting a time when her party was discussing who among them should hold Ma, an NDP MLA, to account over an issue.

“Except that Bowinn is a very pretty lady,” continued Thornthwaite. “And she knows that she’s got ‘it.’ And she knows how to get Ralph going.”

Several of the Liberals chuckle.

Thornthwaite, most recently the opposition critic for the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, is running again in North Vancouver-Seymour.

“And my, this is my roast part for Ralph,” Thornthwaite continues. “The day after, he’s telling us in caucus that we cannot accept what Bowinn Ma says anymore, because she is not saying the truth and she is taking credit for stuff that she shouldn’t be taking credit for. So I go to an event… the Cap U student union luncheon, and both Bowinn Ma and Ralph were stuck on the couch very, very close together, for almost the entire time…”

Sultan groans. “Yes, Ralph, you remember that,” Thornthwaite nods, smilingly.

“We were supposed to be networking… but Bowinn knows how to get you. She knows how to get you.

“Cuddling, cuddling up on the couch, little bit of cleavage there,” she says in a singsong voice. “And Ralph would be enthralled with her,” she finishes to an eruption of largely male laughter.

But few on Twitter found the roast funny.

“Sexist.”
“Petty.”
“Abhorrent.”

“This is shameful behaviour from @BCLiberalsCaucus leaders and [Andrew Wilkinson] does nothing to stop it. [Thornthwaite] is setting feminism back 50 years with the vile things she is saying about [Ma],” wrote one observer.

“Women should be holding each other up, not tearing each other down,” wrote another.

“Shame, shame on Jane.”

Green candidate Harrison Johnston, who is running against Thornthwaite in the North Vancouver-Seymour riding, weighed in:

More Twitter reaction:

As a wave of outrage built on social media, Katrina Chen, MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed, called Thorthwaite’s comments “disgusting,” adding: “This is one of the reasons why it’s hard for women, young women, moms + sisters to enter politics. Sexism exists + many of us have experienced it. But coming from a group of politicians — that’s a new low. This can’t be tolerated.”

“This video,” pronounced veteran B.C. political journalist Keith Baldrey, “has completely derailed the BC Liberal election campaign.”

Thornthwaite tweeted a non-apology this morning:

And followed it up later with this:

Also Sunday morning, Ma tweeted:

 [Tyee]

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