North Vancouver-Lonsdale candidate Bowinn Ma says Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson must respond to questions about a sexist video that emerged on the weekend.
In the video, North Vancouver-Seymour Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite makes a joke at the expense of Ma widely criticized as sexist.
“I think Andrew Wilkinson has a lot to answer for about what he feels is acceptable in his caucus,” Ma said in a press conference on Monday.
“And I question if a man who is unable to set a tone of his political party in terms of respect for women is able to set a tone for British Columbians.”
The joke in question involved Ma and Ralph Sultan, the retiring MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano.
During a Zoom “virtual roast” at Sultan’s expense, Thornthwaite recounted a story insinuating Ma had used feminine wiles to beguile the retiring MLA at a constituency event.
“Bowinn is a very pretty lady, and she knows she’s got ‘it,’” Thornthwaite said.
Thornthwaite told Global News she has not spoken to Wilkinson about the joke, either at the time of the roast or since then.
Wilkinson did not speak to reporters on Sunday and has no public events scheduled for Monday. Requests for Wilkinson to amend his schedule and speak to reporters have so far been turned down.
Wilkinson took to Twitter Sunday, saying Thornthwaite was right to apologize to Ma and added his own apology, stating “this never should have happened.”
The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on social media. One of the most common themes expressed in the comments about the video is that behaviour like this from elected officials turns people away from wanting to be involved in politics.
Ma said she has faced sexism in her career as an engineer and politician.
“What I am most concerned about is how women and girls look at themselves when they are looking towards leadership roles. I think it is really up to voters of British Columbia to decide if they want these political leaders re-elected,” Ma said.
“I am not the only woman who has experienced this in their daily lives. So many women, girls and non-binary people across this province are judged not by their experience, not by their potential but by the way that they look. What we are seeing now is a courage from British Columbians we have not seen before.”
Wilkinson is set to debate BC NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau on Tuesday night. The televised leaders’ debate will be an opportunity for all party leaders to make a pitch to voters with advance polls set to open this week.
“This is becoming a pattern of behaviour that Andrew Wilkinson has tacitly endorsed by allowing to continue on. All of us make mistakes. We are human. We learn from them. We grow. But not all of us are running to lead the province,” Ma said.
“I must admit I have been extremely fortunate to serve in the BC NDP caucus under a leader, John Horgan, who has made it very clear he would not tolerate any sexism of any time amongst his team. I almost forgot that not every political party subscribes to the same level of standard of respecting women.”
–With files from Simon Little