New Brunswick minister calls out Opposition over ‘sexist’ remarks

The New Brunswick Legislative Assembly heard from a cabinet minister Tuesday who cited comments made by three members of the Official Opposition over the past month indicating she has been the victim of sexism.

READ MORE: Dalhousie to address all sexism report recommendations within 2 years

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In a point of privilege, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Lisa Harris opened the day by speaking about comments that she said had been spoken to her by Opposition members Kirk MacDonald and Bruce Fitch in the legislative assembly, reading transcripts of what had sparked her outrage.

“‘It is lovely to see you in the chair today, my heart always skips a beat,’” Harris read a line recently uttered by MacDonald, MLA for Fredericton-York.

On April 3, Harris contacted Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs via email to express her concern over the comments she called “sexist” and “bullying”.

Higgs responded the next day apologizing for such comments and saying he’d discuss the matter with the members in question.

“I responded to the minister that it was unacceptable, I apologized for that behaviour, for those comments, and we reacted very promptly,” Higgs said in a scrum after the point of privilege was debated. “So to have those items come forward was a little, I guess, concerning because we dealt with it very quickly.”

WATCH: It’s the uphill battle on Parliament Hill. How do you get more women into politics – and how do you end sexism in politics? Shirlee Engel looks at the cruel harassment Canada’s female politicians are hit with, why some women avoid a political career altogether, and how others say the sacrifices are worth it.

Higgs stands by his handling of the issue and questions why it was brought up in the legislature a month later.

Harris, steadfast that it was nothing but a deflection device, pointed to a recent comment made by Opposition MLA Stewart Fairgrieve who referenced Marie Antoinette when discussing Finance Minister Cathy Rogers, saying “we know what happened to her.”

“He may have spoke to them but I don’t think they were listening,” Harris said.  “But after today maybe that will stop and that’s what I’m hoping will happen.”

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