McKenna hopes 'climate Barbie' furor brings change in behaviour -

McKenna hopes ‘climate Barbie’ furor brings change in behaviour

“It’s not about me,” says environment minister. “It’s about how women… face these kind of comments — sexist, misogynistic comments.”

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna scrums with media in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Matthew Usherwood/CP)

(Matthew Usherwood/CP)

Canada’s environment minister says she’s fed up with the sexist comments women in politics have to put up with, and she accuses conservatives of being the worst offenders in the misogyny department.

Catherine McKenna spoke at length about this week’s events where an opposition lawmaker referred to her as “climate Barbie,” then deleted the tweet, apologized, and drew condemnation from the leader of the Conservative party.

She addressed the issue in a chat with Canadian reporters Wednesday along the East River in New York City — beside the United Nations, where she is attending a series of high-level meetings on climate change.

McKenna said she accepts the apology, assuming it’s sincere. But she expressed anger about this becoming an issue while she’s been having substantive meetings this week with the secretary-general of the United Nations, with California Gov. Jerry Brown, and with female climate leaders.

“You know what’s really sad? That I’m having to talk about this. It’s really disappointing, what happened. And unfortunately it’s not about me — it’s about how women, especially women in politics, face these kind of comments — sexist, misogynistic comments — especially from conservatives,” McKenna said.

“I want to be talking about what I’m doing. But unfortunately we’re having this conversation. And this isn’t just something that happened once. This has been going on since I’ve been in this position. You can just look at my Twitter feed. And it’s not about apologies. It’s really about changes in behaviour, and changes in attitude. And that’s what I hope comes out of this. We need to move on. I’ve got two daughters. There’s lots of young women who want to get into politics, and I want them to feel like they can go do that, and they can talk about the great work they’re doing — not about the colour of their hair.”

The leader of the Conservatives referred to his daughters too, in a statement late Wednesday.

“As a father of three daughters, I want to ensure that gender-based stereotypes have no place in Canada or Canadian politics,” Andrew Scheer said.

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“The demeaning words used by the member were inappropriate and he has rightly apologized. The minister is in New York today and I am in the process of contacting her so I can assure the minister that this type of behaviour has no place in the Conservative caucus.”

The unnamed member in that statement — Gerry Ritz — apologized.

Ritz triggered the furor Tuesday with the wisecrack on Twitter. He promptly deleted the tweet and apologized, but not before touching off a cascade of social media outrage, including from McKenna herself.

“I apologize for the use of Barbie, it is not reflective of the role the minister plays,” Ritz wrote.

The issue dominated the start of Wednesday’s question period. The Ritz controversy proved the perfect remote control for a government keen to change the channel amid sustained public anger over its proposed changes to small business taxes.

Three times, Scheer tried to press the government on its plans, and all three times Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr — standing in for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in New York for the UN General Assembly — ignored them.

Instead, Carr demanded Scheer disavow Ritz’s words and compel him to apologize in the House of Commons, not just to McKenna but to all MPs and all Canadians. Initially, Scheer would not bite. Until his statement late in the day, he hadn’t said a word publicly about the tweet, avoiding reporters after both the weekly Conservative caucus meeting and after question period.

The Liberals, on the other hand, came back to it, again and again.

Carr said: “Leaders have to be sensitive to telling all Canadians that that kind of language is unacceptable… We gave (Scheer) an opportunity to do that today. He chose not to accept it.”

The Liberals also took the opportunity to embark on a fundraising opportunity, issuing an email to potential donors from McKenna referencing the tweet and asking for money to help the Liberals build a “more inclusive society for our kids and grandkids.”

Politicians of all stripes criticized Ritz for the remark.

Others also pointed out Ritz borrowed the “climate Barbie” insult from The Rebel, the far-right website Scheer has disavowed barring changes in its editorial direction, following its coverage of the racist demonstrations last month in Charlottesville, Va.

More than 80 stories on the website refer to McKenna with the insult, and several Rebel contributors were happy to acknowledge using it, including one who bragged Wednesday on Twitter that she had coined the phrase.


McKenna hopes ‘climate Barbie’ furor brings change in behaviour

  1. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a cabinet minister confess to a sexual assault of an employee to him personally, and instead of going to the police and reporting the crime, the government allegedly quietly moved the employee to another job.

    Catherine McKenna is part of the Trudeau government that did this.

    The mainstream media is silent on this, but not on a tweet.

    • Trudeau was right to kick Kang out of the caucus, but the Conservatives have a history of horrible comments such as slandering gays, condoning the hateful rhetoric of Sun News which turned into Rebel. They claim to support free speech for their side only, but they refuse to ever stand for minority groups, marginalized people, minor parties, and other ideologies. The best way to have free speech is to not advocate for your own side but all Canadians. I doubt they do, and they seem to be silent on bullying which they seem to want. Don’t forget about the history of attacking the Bloc Quebecois in the 1990’s calling them traitors when they wanted Western separatism in the West in Reform.

    • In fact, no party should ever treat members like this. The Conservatives are not very honourable for calling Trudeau Justin either. They want to attack others, their reputation and label people, and they have the gall to call themselves Christian. They also had the Muslim hotline to attack Muslims and many of their MPs in the 2015 campaign even wanted to go after groups and not have immigration from the Middle East when from early in their mandate after the 2011 election the Conservatives brought in more Muslims. Sounds to me that you don’t know of which you speak. Also, Scheer was right to call McKenna but for most Canadians it is too late and Scheer seems to only want to boost the fortunes of his own party and their image is not exactly pristine from the Harper years.

  2. I don’t think there’s any hope of curing the Cons.

    They are ignorant from the ground up.

  3. The Trudeau Liberals have had 4 MP’s removed from their caucus for improper behaviour towards women.

    • That is not exactly true because the Liberal party got rid of 2 others before the end of last parlimant before 2015. The fact is the Liberals want peace in the House of Commons and parties to work together. It seems to me that the heckling and negative comments and lack of honesty come from the Conservatives.

  4. Apart from being mildly offensive, Ritz’s “Climate Barbie” comment is regrettable because it deflects attention from, or proper scrutiny of, the actual performance of Catherine McKenna as a minister in this government. So far, her most obvious accomplishment is her “rah, rah” boosterism for orthodox climate change thinking and advocacy for policies that will have no effect on the climate but will negatively impact the Canadian economy, e.g., the imposition of a national carbon tax. McKenna seems to have been pressed from the same mould as Trudeau; she sticks to her talking points, says nothing of substance, and would likely be hard pressed to respond to a tough question if anyone in the media actually bothered to pose one.

    It is tiresome to hear her repeat that we must move toward a fossil fuel-free future and that doing so is the path to economic growth and the creation of clean-tech jobs of the future that will help to expand the middle class. Perhaps she could comment on the recently announced closure of the Siemens wind turbine plant in Tillsonburg, Ontario and the loss of 340 “green” jobs. Or maybe she could weigh in on the suit being brought against the electricity system operator (IESO) and the Ontario Minister of Energy by a railcar manufacturer that challenges the constitutional legitimacy of the green energy related charges that have cost Ontario taxpayers $37 billion over ten years. The company launched the suit because the outrageous cost of electricity in Ontario is driving it out of business. Brace for more of the same once the carbon taxes kick in and the oil and gas industry finally throws in the towel because it’s been regulated into oblivion by this government.

    Instead, what you get from McKenna is endless photos on her Twitter feed of her meeting with some official from the UN climeatariat or some rent-seeking renewable energy proponent. Her posts are empty, vapid nonsense. Her portfolio is a critically important one and the implications of policy in this area are consequential. What the role demands is someone with intellectual heft, who is not dogmatic but can actually grasp that sloganeering and feel-good virtue posturing is not the primary purpose of their job, and who is capable of actually understanding the technical complexity of the issues and both the efficacy and costs of potential solutions. McKenna, to date, has never even hinted that she is any of that.