BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson accepted the resignation of controversial Chilliwack-Kent candidate Laurie Throness Thursday.
The move came following outcry over comments Throness made at an all-candidates debate earlier this week comparing the NDP’s free birth control plan to eugenics.
Wilkinson said Throness accepted that his comments were inappropriate, but that it was clear he couldn’t stay with the party.
“This is a party that tries to tolerate a range of views. There’s a party position that is my own position on things like discrimination and contraception, and Mr. Throness reached a point where his views are no longer compatible with mine or the party,” Wilkinson said.
“It’s critical that we all understand that access to contraception is a very important issue in our society, and we as a party and I as a person fully endorse the idea of free contraception for people who need it for their health care in British Columbia.”
Reached by text message, Throness said he needed to take some time to think about whether he will still seek election.
Either way, he will still appear on the ballot under the BC Liberal banner.
Throness’ comments on eugenics, a movement that promotes selective human breeding to weed out characteristics seen as undesirable, were captured in a Zoom recording of the Wednesday event, where he added contraception was a low priority among medical spending.
“The other thing that I feel about this is that it contains a whiff of the old eugenics thing where poor people shouldn’t have babies and so we can’t force them to have contraception so we’ll give it to them for free,” he said.
“And maybe they’ll have fewer babies so there will be fewer poor people in the future. And to me, that contains an odour that I don’t like and so I don’t really support what the NDP is doing there and that’s my answer.”
Earlier Thursday, the NDP called for Wilkinson to fire Throness, arguing his comments fit in with a pattern of previous remarks regarding the LGBTQ2 community, including defending conversion therapy.
“(It) demonstrates just how out of touch he is and his party is,” said NDP Coquitlam-Maillardville candidate Selina Robinson.
“He’s from a different century as far as I’m concerned and I think as far as British Columbians are concerned. He is outdated and it’s harmful to people.”
The political reaction didn’t just come from the NDP. Prior to Throness’ resignation from the party, a number of BC Liberal candidates took to social media to pillory his comments.
On Thursday evening, party membership chair Nicole Paul posted a multi-tweet thread outlining longstanding concerns about Throness and taking direct aim at Wilkinson’s leadership.
“I continue to stand by the values of free enterprise that originally drew me to this party. The BC Liberal Party under Andrew Wilkinson does not reflect values I support,” she wrote.
“I am pleased to see Laurie Throness will no longer be a candidate or caucus member, this is action that any reasonable leader would have acted on months, if not years ago.”
On Sunday, B.C.’s New Democrats promised free prescription contraception if re-elected, saying the move will save residents money and advance gender equality.
Earlier this year, Throness faced criticism for advertising in a free Christian lifestyle publication after concerns were raised that the magazine published multiple editorials opposed to SOGI 123, the provincial program to help educators make schools more inclusive and safe for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
In July, Wilkinson announced the party would no longer advertise in Light Magazine. At the time, Throness insisted he would continue to advertise in the magazine, but eventually stopped.
The incident prompted the New Democrats to call for the MLA to be tossed from caucus.
— With files from Richard Zussman, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press