British Columbia·Video

B.C. Liberal candidate's comments about young, female NDP candidate spark social media fury

In a video that has prompted outrage on Twitter, B.C. Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite implies that NDP candidate Bowinn Ma, 35, used her appearance to charm former Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan during a networking event.

Liberal Jane Thornthwaite said Bowinn Ma was 'cuddling' another MLA at a networking event

B.C. Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite, left, who is running in North Vancouver-Seymour, has apologized for comments she made about B.C. NDP candidate Bowinn Ma, right. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

B.C. NDP candidate Bowinn Ma says comments made by a Liberal candidate sexualized Ma's interactions with another politician and are a disservice to women who want to enter politics.

A video leaked on Twitter sparked social media outrage after it showed Liberal Jane Thornthwaite saying Ma, 35, used her appearance to charm retiring Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan during a networking event.

"The video of B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson watching on as a multi-term B.C. Liberal North Shore MLA sexualized my interactions with another multi-term B.C. Liberal North Shore MLA is a deeply uncomfortable characterization of my efforts to extend kindness across partisan lines," Ma said Sunday in a statement posted on Facebook and Twitter.

In the video, Thornthwaite says Ma is "a very pretty lady and she knows that she's got 'it' and she knows how to get Ralph going."

The comments were made during a virtual "roast" event held in honour of Sultan on Sept. 17.

WATCH | Thornthwaite says Ma 'knows how to get Ralph going':

B.C. Liberal candidate's comments about young, female NDP candidate spark social media outrage

1 year ago
Duration 2:06
Jane Thornthwaite is apologizing for comments she made about NDP candidate Bowinn Ma during a virtual "roast" event held in honour of retiring Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan. Thornthwaite claimed Ma, 35, used her appearance to charm Sultan during a networking event. 2:06

The video sparked outrage on social media after it was posted to Twitter on Saturday by Mo Amir, who hosts a B.C. political and pop culture podcast. Many called Thornthwaite's comments sexist and disparaging to women in politics.

Thornthwaite has since responded to the backlash on Twitter. "I have huge respect for all women who push through glass ceilings. I'm one of them. So is Bowinn Ma," she said in a tweet.

"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."

B.C. Liberal Jane Thornthwaite, who is running in North Vancouver Seymour, has apologized for comments she made about Bowinn Ma. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Thornthwaite has since followed up her initial tweet with an apology.

"The comments I made at the roast for my colleague Ralph Sultan fell flat and were inappropriate. I unreservedly apologize for making these comments."

Thornthwaite says she's reached out to Ma to apologize directly.

B.C. politicians took to social media Sunday to condemn the comments as sexist and insulting to Ma.

NDP candidate David Eby, who served as attorney general in the last provincial government, tweeted Sunday that the comments amounted to slander of Ma, "a powerhouse representative who is also a young woman."

Support for Ma also poured in from other parties, with Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau calling for an apology.

In the video, Thornthwaite goes on to describe the interaction between Sultan and Ma, saying "Ralph would be sitting on the middle of the couch and Bowinn would be right up right there and cuddling, cuddling, cuddling, a little bit of cleavage there, and Ralph would be enthralled."

"I go to an event and one of them was the [Capilano University] student union luncheon and both Bowinn Ma and Ralph were stuck on the couch together very, very, close together for almost the entire time."

The comments were met by laughs from the other Liberals on the video call, including Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and candidates Mike de Jong, Karin Kirkpatrick, Ralph Sultan, Kevin Falcon, Jess Ketchum, Jordan Sturdy, and Gordon Hogg.

Ma, the NDP candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, was one of the youngest MLAs in the B.C. legislature prior to the election being called. 

Wilkinson offered Ma his own apology in a tweet Sunday afternoon, saying the comments were inappropriate.

"I understand why many people are upset, and I continue to be committed to doing everything I can to make sure women are welcomed, encouraged, and treated with respect in politics and public life," he added in the tweet.


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