NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — NDP candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, Bowinn Ma, is expected to speak Monday morning after she became the centre of a whirlwind controversy over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
We expect to hear from @BowinnMa this morning at 9am and will bring you the latest. Ma has called the comments "deeply uncomfortable" as dozens of colleagues and others come to her defense and condemn the comments as sexist, misogynistic and gossip.
— Ash 'I work from home now' Kelly (@AshDKelly) October 12, 2020
In a video leaked to Vancouver radio personality and columnist, Mo Amir, BC 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.
Thornthwaite goes on to describe a luncheon event at Capilano University, where she is running in the riding of North Vancouver-Seymour.
“Bowinn Ma and Ralph were stuck on the couch together. Very, very close together for almost the entire time.”
Sultan groans at this point in the video but Thornthwaite continues on.
“We were supposed to be networking and all this but Bowinn knows how to get you, she knows how to get you. There are these big couches but Ralph would be sitting, let’s say the middle of the couch, and Bowin would be right up, right next to him, cuddling, cuddling, cuddling; a little bit of cleavage there, and Ralph would be enthralled with her.”
I’m not going to editorialize this.
Rather, I’d like to hear from women on how they feel about this clip.
— Mo Amir ॐ This is VANCOLOUR (@vancolour) October 11, 2020
Crisis management requires immediate cleanup
While the video was posted Saturday evening, Thorthwaite did not respond online until the next morning, when her initial statement failed to meet the test for a genuine apology according to pundits, political watchers, and thousands of voters commenting and following the controversy.
We are appalled and disappointed by Jane Thornthwaite’s comments about @BowinnMa at a @bcliberals roast of @Ralph_Sultan. We were also disappointed by the initial non-apology that @jthornthwaite tweeted this morning in response to online coverage. https://t.co/PBtr7hRds2
— Capilano Students' Union (@CapStudentUnion) October 11, 2020
She followed that up with a second tweet and Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson followed suit with his own version of an apology.
Alex Shiff is a senior consultant with Navigator and an expert at political crisis management. He says the BC Liberals failed to get out ahead of the controversy or explain what the party will do to correct any sexism within its ranks.
“What’s troubling is the response to the video. In politics, inevitably, you have comments from candidates that come up and cause trouble for the campaign and ultimately it’s up to the campaign to manage them,” he says.
“What we’ve seen here is really a lack of an ability to adequately bring the issue to an end in a timely matter.”
Such an apology should have been “full-throated” and explained what would be done to prevent the issue from recurring, says Shiff, who says ultimately Canadians are forgiving and can move on if parties manage to own their mistakes.
“Politicians tend to feel like when they’re on their back foot, that an apology is a sign of weakness,” he explains.
He says it’s a common error for parties and politicians to fail to admit when they’re wrong for fear of conceding a point to their opponents.
Meanwhile, the fallout for Thornthwaite has been swift and the party remains silent as the NDP and Green continue to campaign with two weeks remaining before election day.
Ma has already responded to the sexism and controversy online but is expected to address the issue in person Monday at 9 a.m.
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