POLITICS

Joe Oliver's Cambridge Club Speech Cancelled Amid Controversy

08/26/2015 12:02 EDT | Updated 08/26/2016 05:59 EDT

TORONTO — Joe Oliver cancelled a speech about the economy at an exclusive men's club Wednesday, amid questions about the finance minister's choice of venue for his first public comments since the stock market plunge earlier this week.

Oliver, who is running for re-election in the north Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, was scheduled to speak at the Cambridge Club, a swanky facility that 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. Its president, Clive Caldwell, would only say that he did not believe the club's nature had anything to do with Oliver's decision.

Oliver's campaign would not say why the event was cancelled, but said the minister speaks "to many groups, organizations and individuals in many places on a variety of topics."

Wednesday's 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.

"This finance minister, who refuses to speak to the House of Commons, who is unavailable to the press, had a plan to give a private meeting in a private club and talk about the Canadian economy there," Chrystia Freeland said in the lobby of the hotel that houses the club.

"That's not how the Canadian finance minister should behave," said Freeland, who is running in the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale. "And it just makes it worse that the private venue where he was intending to speak was a men's-only club."

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 included 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.

Caldwell would not confirm whether Oliver is a member, but stressed that the club has no political affiliations.

"We want to welcome all people who want to express their views and what's going on in the world," he said.

Another Oliver speech scheduled for next week at the Albany Club, also in Toronto, has been postponed until after the federal election. The Albany Club calls itself one of Canada's oldest private clubs and promises members "the opportunity to meet many of today's leaders in Canadian politics and business."

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.

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