December 8, 2017 8:12 pm
Updated: December 11, 2017 4:04 pm

Manitoba premier comes under fire for comments on Chamber chair’s outfit, not her presentation

WATCH: Premier Brian Pallister came under fire after making remarks about the female chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce's outfit instead of her presentation. Global's Zahra Premji reports.

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Premier Brian Pallister came under fire after making remarks about the female chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s outfit instead of her presentation.

Pallister addressed a crowd of nearly 1,200 high-profile business leaders on Thursday to speak about the state of the province.

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But, it’s what he said very early on in his speech about Johanna Hurme, the chair of the Chamber of Commerce, that has stuck with Manitobans a day later.

“I want to thank Johanna for dressing up. I want to thank her for those heels. I noticed they’re a foot high,” Pallister said on Thursday.

Gender Studies Professor at the University of Manitoba, Jocelyn Thorpe, said it’s sad but she’s not surprised to hear this from a male leader, but she hopes it is a lesson learned on his part.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to think before we speak and then to think ‘OK is what I’m about to say.”‘ Thorpe said. “Whether I mean it to be sexist or not, is it going to come across that way.”

Later on Thursday, Premier Pallister issued a statement in response to what he had said in his speech.

The statement read:

“I want to address comments that I made to Johanna Hurme, a woman for whom I have the greatest regard and respect, at the outset of my Winnipeg Chamber Commerce speech. 

Given my tall stature, I am particularly aware of my height and often make light-hearted comments about being taller than the people around me. 

I made an awkward reference to Johanna’s high heels in that context.  

I can see how they could be easily misconstrued.  

That was never my intention and I meant no offense of any kind to Johanna.”

READ MORE: Manitoba premier comments on Winnipeg chamber chair’s appearance, high heels

On Friday, in a statement of her own, Hurme had this to say:

Johanna Statement by Jesse Ferreras on Scribd

While she didn’t think Pallister’s comments were ill-intended, she said the “national attention that the incident has created since yesterday highlights a much bigger issue that I cannot ignore on behalf of all women, young girls and progressive men in the audience — and now across our country.”

She said his comments should be called out and addressed, especially as they came after she delivered a business content-filled presentation on sprawl and infrastructure.

Gender Studies Prof. Jocelyn Thorpe, said the premier needed to issue an apology, not just a statement.

“The point he should have made is I respect women. Women can be politicians, women are people who have ideas, women are not the same thing as their bodies,” Thorpe said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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