PC MLA Bruce Fitch apologizes for online comment in wake of sexist taunts apology

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One day after Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs apologized for sexist comments by three of his MLAs, one of those members was forced to apologize himself for an additional comment.

Riverview MLA Bruce Fitch told the legislature he was sorry for a late-night comment he posted on a Brunswick News online story about Tuesday's episode.

Fitch wrote that years ago, Liberal MLAs had made sexist comments about PC cabinet minister Margaret-Ann Blaney.

"Where was Lisa and you then?" he said, referring to a previous online commenter and current cabinet minister Lisa Harris.

"Timing is everything. Cover up the property scandal?" Fitch wrote. "Send Lisa out? What is the worst that could happen? Lisa gets called out and is seen for the player she is?''

Harris, a first-term Liberal MLA had demanded an apology Tuesday for earlier comments by Fitch and two other male PC MLAs.

Higgs did apologize and Harris said she hoped that was the end of it.

But Wednesday she rose again to complain about Fitch's new online comment.

Sincerity questioned

"He said that because other members had made sexist comments in the past, it was somehow OK for that behaviour to continue today," Harris said. "It is not OK."

She speculated that Fitch had "a dose of truth serum before his 1 a.m. post" and questioned whether Higgs's earlier apology was sincere.

Fitch apologized as soon as procedure allowed it.

"I would like to sincerely apologize to the minister as requested, as suggested this morning," he said.

Urged to 'use common sense'

Speaker Chris Collins asked all MLAs to be more careful about how they talk about each other.

He called Higgs's Tuesday apology on behalf of three PC MLAs "incredible."

"We all have the ability to have freedom of speech but we should use common sense when we do it," Collins said.

Whether it's someone's language, race, gender or something else, "we have to be very, very cognizant and professional and sensitive to it whether we're inside this house or outside this house."

The previous incident Fitch referred to involving Margaret-Ann Blaney occurred in June 2006. Moncton North MLA Mike Murphy used the term "weather girl" in a discussion about the snow-clearing budget during question period.

Outside the legislature, Blaney, who represented Saint John Kings and served as minister responsible for the status of women from 1999 and 2006, told reporters Murphy had used the term in a way that was offensive to women.

Murphy said he never intended the term as derogatory and immediately slapped Blaney with a defamation suit, claiming her accusation damaged his family name. He subsequently dropped the lawsuit.