After touring a sewage treatment plant on the Halifax waterfront Friday, Peter MacKay denied making sexist comments in the House of Commons, aimed at former mate Belinda Stronach, widely reported (here, here and here for example) in the day’s newspapers.
Canada’s political discourse having taken another direct hit, MacKay’s sense of irony seemed absent as he responded to reporters’ questions after his tour of shit-treating technology.
“They can check the record of Hansard. It’s not there. It’s not there. I said nothing about a dog,” said MacKay.
Leave it to, from all accounts, an exceptional lawyer to parse words so finely.
He may not have said “dog”. But while the government was being grilled Thursday over its much-ado-about-nothing Clean Air Plan, a Liberal jokingly asked MacKay about the impact of pollution on humans and animals, “What about your dog?” (The dog played a cameo role in the heart-break reportage which followed the Peter and Belinda split.)
According to Liberal Mark Holland, and a host of others, MacKay motioned toward Stronach’s vacant seat and replied, “You already have her.”
Friday’s Question Period, always a who’s who (with the emphasis often on who?) of Opposition and government stand-ins, was led off by Liberal Ralph Goodale, demanding an apology from MacKay.
Prime Minister Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary Jason Kenney deflected the question, saying the Speaker would rule on the matter. (Peter Milliken later bailed out, saying he had not seen, nor did Hansard record, the remarks in question.) Then Kenney churned out a host of red herrings, like so many Friday fish specials, such as it was a Conservative government which gave women the right to vote, Canada’s first female cabinet minister was a Conservative and it was a Conservative who was Canada’s first Prime Minister (they always speak so highly of Kim Campbell, do they not?)
For added effect, Kenney then recited a couple of examples of current Conservative women being maligned by Opposition comments.
Today, October 20, marks the ten month anniversary since MacKay, then in the last days of an election campaign, apologized to Halifax NDP MP Alexa McDonough for telling her to “stick to her knitting.”
October is Women’s History Month so I bring that ten month anniversary to our attention only to underline what a sexist piece of work we have in our Foreign Affairs Minister, Canada’s representative to the world.
Moreover so many Members of Parliament, and I’m thinking primarily of the Conservative MPs, just do not “get” how pervasive sexism is in our political system. (This would include some Conservative women, too, unfortunately.)
Kudos to Opposition members, male and female, Liberal and New Democrat (the Bloc was less visible on this one), for underscoring how this lack of parliamentary “decorum” degrades the entire institution. What’s worse such sexism, whether it makes it into Hansard or not, does nothing but discourage women who might otherwise consider seeking public office and if ever we needed a whole lot more women to shape our world it is now!