Sexist taunts by 3 Tory MLAs prompt leader Higgs to apologize to minister

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Sexist taunts by 3 Tory MLAs prompt leader Higgs to apologize to minister

Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs has apologized for what he agrees were sexist comments by three of his MLAs.

Higgs says he expects his members to meet a higher standard of behaviour after a complaint Tuesday by Liberal cabinet minister Lisa Harris.

Harris asked a legislative committee to debate the comments by MLAs Kirk MacDonald, Bruce Fitch and Stewart Fairgrieve.

Instead, Higgs apologized during a short debate on her motion and Speaker Chris Collins declared the matter closed.

"I have had the discussion with the member and we will have the entire discussion again with caucus," Higgs told reporters afterward. "It isn't acceptable and I'm not going to stand here and condone it in any way, shape or form."

Minister first complained April 3

Harris, the minister responsible for seniors and long-term care, first complained to Higgs on April 3 about comments by MacDonald and Fitch that she considered to be based on her gender.

In the last two sessions of the legislature, MacDonald made repeated references to him and Harris having "something special" together and said his heart "always skips a beat" when she chaired a legislative committee.

And earlier this year, Fitch said in the legislature that Harris "did her gender a real disservice" by complaining about MacDonald's remarks.

Higgs apologized in an April 4 letter, telling her, "I unreservedly apologize."

Another comment last week

But last week, Harris said Tuesday, a third MLA, Fairgrieve, crossed the line when he compared Finance Minister Cathy Rogers and her budget's tax measures to Marie Antoinette.

"In the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette made the mistake of saying let them eat cake, and we know what happened to her," Fairgrieve said.

Marie Antoinette was the wife of King Louis XVI and was guillotined during the French Revolution.

Harris said Tuesday that Higgs's original admonition to his caucus apparently hadn't worked.

"He may have spoke to them," she said. "I don't think they were listening."

Higgs suggested Tuesday that Harris was raising the issue now to distract from government controversies, but despite that, he said, the comments couldn't be allowed to stand.

Harris said she hoped by raising the issue to spark a discussion about sexist comments.

"You question yourself. 'Is what I'm hearing right? Is what I'm feeling right? Should I say something?'

"I've been talking about this for a while but it just never went away. Enough is enough. So today, hopefully, this ends it."