A Tory cabinet minister has been accused of crossing the line after telling a young woman that she will “make a wonderful wife for somebody,” thanks largely to her baking prowess.
According to the CBC, Fredericton MP and Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield went off-script at a staged event with a New Brunswick family on Friday. Though the photo-op was meant to highlight skills training for young people in the federal budget, Ashfield apparently lost his focus after sampling some baked goods prepared by Grace Moreno, a high school student.
“Grace, you’re a great cook,” he said. “You’re going to make a wonderful wife for somebody.”
The quip didn’t sit well with deputy NDP leader Megan Leslie, who asked Ashfield in Question Period on Monday afternoon to confirm that he said those words.
Ashfield tried to divert attention with a short response.
“I am glad the member opposite is following the newscast and our talk about the federal budget,” he said. “It was indeed a great day to promote our budget on Friday. We had significant interest in it.”
Unsurprisingly, Leslie wasn’t satisfied.
“Wow, leave it to the Conservatives to encourage young women to get married as part of their economic action plan,” the Halifax MP said to some laughs.
“Look, his comments were disrespectful. Come on. Grace, you're a great cook? You're going to make a wonderful wife for somebody? In other words: there, there, stop planning for your future.”
Ashfield, again, downplayed the issue
“Obviously the opposition members have little fault to find in our budget if this is the only type of question they can ask in this House,” he said to applause.
Yet it appears Leslie isn’t alone in finding Ashfield’s comments inappropriate. Political analyst Lisa Kirbie wrote on her blog Sunday night that the quip is proof positive that Stephen Harper’s Canada is a "Mad Men world."
“In what universe is it acceptable to tell a young woman that she is going to make someone a great wife one day?,” Kirbie asked.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that a Conservative cabinet minister from the East coast has been accused of being less than respectful to women.
In 2006, Defence Minister Peter MacKay apologized for telling New Democrat Alexa McDonough to “stick to knitting” during a debate on a Halifax radio show. Months later, MacKay was accused of referring to Liberal MP Belinda Stronach, his ex-girlfriend, as a dog in the House of Commons — an allegation he vigorously denied.
And, in 1985, Newfoundlander and former justice minister John Crosbie was hammered by women’s groups for telling former Liberal MP Sheila Copps to “just quiet down, baby.” Copps famously declared she was “nobody’s baby” and asked Crosbie, whom she later befriended, to withdraw the comments.
Of course, some may view those examples as more offensive than an off-the-cuff remark to a girl that was intended to be complimentary.
Do you think Ashfield should apologize?
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Ashfield has contacted The Huffington Post Canada with a statement from the minister.
I would like to thank the Moreno family for taking the time to discuss Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013. The family’s insightful comments and feedback are valuable to me and our Government as we continue to build a strong and prosperous nation.
My comments to Grace Moreno have been taken out of context and were simply meant to compliment her on her genuine hospitality.
Ms. Moreno is a gifted and active young member of her high school and our greater community. And she has a great future ahead of her.
I am proud of our youth and I appreciate the contributions that she and other youth continue to make to our community and country.