TORONTO — Finance Minister Joe Oliver cancelled a planned speech Wednesday at a Toronto men’s club that sparked a Twitter controversy.
Oliver was scheduled to speak about the future of the Canadian economy at the Cambridge Club, which describes itself as a “legendary men’s club” and “the downtown playground for Toronto’s most successful executives.”
The club said the event was called off but did not provide an explanation.
Oliver’s campaign would not say why the event was cancelled, but defended the minister’s choice of venue.
“Joe Oliver speaks to many groups, organizations and individuals in many places on a variety of topics, including the economy, security and leadership,” his campaign said in a statement.
The sold-out event stirred online criticism and drew the ire of a Liberal candidate, who said Oliver should discuss the economy at a public event.
“Canadians are worried about the economy, stock markets are tumbling, yet Joe Oliver is nowhere to be seen unless you’re a wealthy Conservative donor who happens to be a man,” Chrystia Freeland, who is running in the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale, said in a statement.
Many expressed similar sentiments on Twitter, arguing voters shouldn’t have to pay — or identify as a specific gender — to hear the finance minister speak.
“If you can pay the fee, and if you’re a man, you might get to hear Joe Oliver talk about the economy with these guys,” one person tweeted along with a promo photo from the Cambridge Club website.
“Want proof the #CPC won’t make women’s issues a priority? Joe Oliver’s speaking at a men’s-only club today. #elxn42,” wrote another.
Tickets to the noon event cost $40 before tax and tip and include lunch and a glass of wine.
Oliver has been a Cambridge Club member for 42 years, according to a profile of the club published this year in the National Post. The dining room where the speech was to be held is co-ed, the story said.
Another speech scheduled for next week at the Albany Club, also in Toronto, has been postponed until after the federal election.
A federal leaders’ debate over women’s issues was cancelled earlier this week after both Prime Minister Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said they would not participate.