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.


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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