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Bowinn Ma questions BC Liberal Party leadership after sexist comments in video

Last Updated Oct 12, 2020 at 6:21 pm PDT

FILE - Bowinn Ma campaigning in 2020. (Courtesy Bowinn Ma, Instagram)

Bowinn Ma questioned BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson's ability to lead the province on Monday

Ma was the target of sexualized and belittling remarks by members of that party's caucus in a video

May said she has not responded to a call and text message from Thornthwaite

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Bowinn Ma, the NDP candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, questioned B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson’s ability to lead the province on Monday after she was the target of sexualized and belittling remarks by members of that party’s caucus in a video that surfaced midway through the B.C. election.

The video is from a virtual call in September that was leaked on the weekend and in which Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite is seen and heard disparaging Ma, accusing her of using her looks to distract male members of the opposition.

“Bowinn is a very pretty lady and she knows that she’s got ‘it’ and she knows how to get Ralph ‘going,’” says Thornthwaite at the beginning of a “roasting” of fellow BC Liberal, Ralph Sultan.

“Bowinn Ma and Ralph were stuck on the couch together. Very, very close together for almost the entire time,” Thornthwaite, running in the riding of North Vancouver-Seymour, goes on to describe of the luncheon event at Capilano University.

“I think Andrew Wilkinson has a lot to answer for in terms of what he feels is acceptable within his caucus, and I question whether a man who is unable to set the tone of his political party in terms of respect for women is able to set a tone for British Columbians,” Ma said of the Liberal leader, who took part in the virtual call.

“This isn’t about this one incident, and it’s not about this one story that was told at some event at a B.C. Liberal fundraiser. This is becoming a pattern of behaviour that Andrew Wilkinson has tacitly endorsed by allowing to continue on,” she added.

“The culture of an organization, particularly a political party, is set by the tone set by the leader. That Andrew Wilkinson has failed to set a tone in his caucus about what is acceptable in terms of the treatment of women and what is expected in terms of respect for women says a lot about the leadership of Andrew Wilkinson.”

‘We all make mistakes’

Ma acknowledged that everyone makes mistakes.

“We are all human and we make mistakes. We get called out, we learn from them, and we grow. But not all of us are running to lead a province. Andrew Wilkinson needs to explain himself to British Columbians.”

Wilkinson has previously been dogged by questions during the campaign about candidates accused of homophobia and transphobia.

Ma said Wilkinson needs to “explain” what happened and is complicit in allowing sexism to continue in his party.

“Young women deserve a province that encourages them to take on leadership roles without fear of sexism. If we want more young women, and more people of colour to enter politics, we must commit to creating environments that respect that. The comments and reactions in that video, do the exact opposite,” she added.

Ma said she’s not a stranger in casual sexism, but has been fortunate to work in a supportive environment with the New Democrats.


“So much so that I almost forgot that not every political party subscribes to the same level of standard of respecting women,” Ma added

“I appreciate the apologies that have been offered to me, but this frankly isn’t about me. Comments like those that were revealed in the video harm all women, girls, and non-binary people in this province.

‘Don’t apologize to me’

Ma said it’s not her who the Liberals should apologize to.

“They need to be explaining themselves to British Columbians, and apologizing to the women and girls that they’ve harmed by allowing this kind of behaviour to continue within major political party that is vying to lead this province.”

Ma said she has not responded to a call and text message from Thornthwaite.

“I did see on my phone that I had a missed call from Jane Thornthwaite, as well as a text asking me to check my voicemail, which I actually do not use,” Ma said.

“But I think that British Columbians will forgive me for not quite being ready to check that voicemail, and not quite being ready to call Jane back at this point. No other BC Liberals have reached out to me.”

Ma said, if re-elected in the Oct. 24 provincial election, she would continue to serve her community and perform her job professionally.

“And that will mean finding it in myself to be able to work with people who I may politically disagree with.”

‘I’m not the only one’

Ma said separating her personal experiences as a younger woman in politics and as a person of colour is difficult.

“I think I’m 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 accomplishments, not by their potential, but by the way that they look,” she said.

“The comments were very personal. But what I’m most concerned about is how it impacts the way that women and girls in this province think of themselves when they’re looking towards leadership roles. I think it’s really up to the voters of British Columbia to decide whether or not they want these political leaders re-elected.”

Thornthwaite and Wilkinson both offered apologies on the weekend for the comments about Ma.

Horgan weighs in

NDP Leader John Horgan said Monday it’s not okay to joke about sexism, racism, and intolerance.

“It’s appropriate for leaders to step up and call that type of behaviour out and I certainly hope that I would have done that in the same circumstance. Having said that, I’m a flawed individual I’m imperfect and I try and learn every day,” he added.

“I believe this is a teachable moment for all of us. And the way Bowinn comports herself is beyond reproach. She’s an extraordinary woman, a young woman of colour who has broken barriers as an engineer, broken barriers as a student at the Sauder business school, and also broken barriers as a compassionate, forward-looking member of the legislature. And she is now, again, blazing a trail for women around British Columbia and, indeed, around the world that you can do anything, and you do not have to tolerate sexist jokes. You can stand up to that, and I’m very proud of her and, quite frankly, proud of the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who are responding positively to her message and calling on the BC Liberals to give their head a shake.”