BC Liberal incumbent Jane Thornthwaite was unable to overcome both the sexist campaign comments she made about another candidate nor an NDP wave in support, apparently losing her North Shore seat in the 2020 B.C. election.
BC NDP hopeful Susie Chant ended up taking North Vancouver-Seymour with 45.3 per cent of the vote, according to projections, well ahead of Thornthwaite’s 35.4 per cent.
It’s the first time the NDP has won the riding since 1972, which has been held by Thornthwaite since 2009 and by the BC Liberals since 1991. Thornthwaite won by nearly 3,400 votes in 2017, down from more than 7,200 votes in 2009.
Her campaign this year was bruised after video surfaced of comments she made during virtual roast for retiring Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan.
The video showed Thornthwaite making sexist comments about fellow North Shore candidate Bowinn Ma of the NDP. Thornthwaite joked that Ma was using her looks and sexuality to get close to Sultan when the two were in office.
“Bowinn, as you know, very pretty lady, and she knows she’s got ‘it,’ and she knows how to get Ralph going,” Thornthwaite says in the video, talking about an event the two attended.
“Bowinn would be right up, right next to him, cuddling, cuddling, a little bit of cleavage there, and Ralph would be enthralled with her.”
Thornthwaite apologized the day after the video was released, saying she did not mean to offend anyone.
The episode was also seen as a challenge for BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, who was also seen in the roast video laughing at Thornthwaite’s remarks.
Wilkinson apologized on Twitter, but didn’t comment publicly on the issue until two days later.
“Jane’s performance that night was so clearly inappropriate and embarrassing that the tenor of the call was that she had done something completely wrong. I did not enforce it because she knew that,” Wilkinson told reporters, adding that he did not speak out during the roast because he did not want to embarrass Sultan.
On election night, Ma told Global News she had heard from people in her own riding about the incident and suggested it may have influenced people’s willingness to vote for the Liberals.
“I think that the incident certainly opened people’s eyes to what the BC Liberals have become, and it wasn’t necessarily what they had thought that they were,” she said.
Chant has worked as a nurse with Vancouver Coastal Health and has been a member of the Royal Canadian Navy Reserves for 40 years. This was her first stab at provincial politics.
— With files from Richard Zussman