"Certainly not my proudest moment," is how West Vancouver-Sea to Sky incumbent MLA candidate Jordan Sturdy describes sitting quietly while a Liberal colleague made degrading comments about New Democrat politician Bowinn Ma during a recent online roast for retiring fellow politician Ralph Sultan.
"I am not proud of not sort of leaping in there and saying, 'Jane, really?' which I think in a personal setting, might have been different," said Sturdy, reached at his home on Thanksgiving Day.
Liberal North Vancouver-Seymour candidate Jane Thornthwaite has said she's sorry for commenting on the physical appearance of Ma, the NDP candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, at the event hosted by the Liberals in September and attended by the party's leader, Andrew Wilkinson, and other party members, including Sturdy.
I’m not going to editorialize this.— Mo Amir ॐ This is VANCOLOUR (@vancolour) October 11, 2020
Rather, I’d like to hear from women on how they feel about this clip.
I’m sharing because a woman reached out to me and asked me to do so (her email in below tweet).#bcpoli pic.twitter.com/AiDwFmBT7F
In a statement on Twitter, Ma, said Thornthwaite "sexualized" her interactions with Sultan at a public event the two attended.
I have huge respect for all women who push through glass ceilings. I’m one of them. So is Bowinn Ma. Ralph Sultan has the same respect and a soft spot for his fellow UBC engineer, and I made light of that at a roast. I have always and will always support more women in politics.— Jane Thornthwaite (@jthornthwaite) October 11, 2020
“Bowinn is a very pretty lady and she knows that she’s got ‘it’,” Thornthwaite said in the video as the rest of the group giggles.
Sturdy, who, with his partner, Trish, and their daughters operates North Arm Farm in Pemberton.
Sturdy added that in addition to being supportive of the strong women in his home, he also worked for his mother for years and that she has been "quite a mentor for me."
"Obviously, I support women and I think we need equality for everybody, in workplaces, in social settings," he said.
The roast allotted three minutes to each speaker, he said, and he did not have the microphone on when Thornthwaite was speaking.
Later Monday, Sturdy reached out to The Chief to say he had been mistaken. He rewatched the video, he said, and his mic was "probably on."
"I would be more likely to talk to a person one on one later than confront them in a Zoom meeting," he said in a text.
He went on to say he was likely more focused on his roast of Sultan than on what was being said by others.
“I was up next. I had never roasted anyone and my comedic skills are hardly legendary,” he said.
We need to be a province that enables young women to take on leadership roles without fear of sexism. British Columbians deserve better from their political leaders. pic.twitter.com/sE3MbnKbSZ— Bowinn Ma (@BowinnMa) October 11, 2020
The video clip featuring Thornthwaite's comments was first published on Twitter on Saturday by Mo Amir, the host of a B.C. political and pop culture podcast.
Thornthwaite acknowledged in Twitter posts that her comments "fell flat and were inappropriate," and said she apologizes "unreservedly."
On Twitter, Thornthwaite also said that she had reached out to Ma to apologize directly.
"I have huge respect for all women who push through glass ceilings. I’m one of them. So is Bowinn Ma," Thornthwaite said.
"I commit to doing better moving forward."
Both women were members of the last legislature.
Thornthwaite was first elected in 2009 while Ma was elected in 2017.
In her statement posted to Twitter, Ma said if society wants more women to enter politics, there must be a commitment to "creating environments that respect them."
"As a woman who has worked in male-dominated industries my whole life so far, I am sadly no stranger to casual sexism," she said.
"Like many women in these situations, I found myself making choices about the way that I act, dress, or carry myself to avoid sexist interpretations read into my interactions."
~With files from Nick Wells/ The Canadian Press & Chris Campbell/ Burnaby Now