CALGARY — Two high-profile Calgary politicians have become embroiled in a heated social media spat with Conservative MP Michelle Rempel accusing Mayor Naheed Nenshi of making a sexist remark.
It began on Sunday when Rempel and Nenshi sparred on Twitter over the impact of a property tax increase on suburban business owners.
Conservative Calgary MP Michelle Rempel and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi have taken up a heated debate on Twitter. (Photos: The Canadian Press)
The disagreement escalated on Tuesday when Nenshi told reporters that Rempel was making hay out of an issue she doesn't understand.
"I'm happy to have her wade in. I'm happy to have her help if she wants to help, but it's sort of helpful if she actually knows what she's talking about first,'' the mayor said.
When pressed on what Rempel was confused about, Nenshi said: "She just didn't understand what was going on.
"Apparently math is challenging, but hopefully she'll figure that out.''
For the record, here is the mayor's response when asked yesterday about Rempel's concern on prop tax issue. pic.twitter.com/ielCUkiaQT
— Scott Dippel (@CBCScott) January 11, 2017
That evening, Rempel, who has an economics degree, tweeted a link to a Calgary Herald story with Nenshi's comments. She wrote: "Wherein @nenshi mansplains to me, and small business owners in Calgary, that 'math is hard.'''
— Michelle Rempel, MP (@MichelleRempel) January 11, 2017
Nenshi tweeted back that he was sorry that what he said "came off as sexist.''
"I would have said the same thing to men in political discourse.''
Rempel scoffed at the apology, replying "lol.''
I'm truly sorry that came off as sexist. I would and have said the same thing to men in political discourse. https://t.co/e71BuxELy3
— Naheed Nenshi (@nenshi) January 11, 2017
Nenshi later retweeted someone who found past examples of the mayor making similar math-related remarks to Twitter users with male avatars.
The argument dragged on late into the night. Rempel said no man would have to justify his math abilities and added that she's looking after the people she represents.
"I'm so sorry for not kissing the purple ring on behalf of my constituents who you're putting out of business,'' she wrote.
"No comment. But a great and totally untrue insult,'' Nenshi retorted. "Keep being you.''
A statement released by Nenshi's office Wednesday showed no signs of the argument being resolved.
"The mayor apologized immediately once he heard how his comment had been interpreted,'' it said.
"It's disappointing to see that Ms. Rempel has not accepted the apology and continues to spread misinformation.''
"It's disappointing to see that Ms. Rempel has not accepted the apology and continues to spread misinformation," Nenshi's office said in a statement. (Photo: Getty Images)
The spat evoked memories of an exchange during a 2015 Alberta election debate in which then-premier Jim Prentice made a remark to Rachel Notley about math being difficult.
Kara Levis, a board member with the group Ask Her, said there was disrespect on both sides of the Rempel-Nenshi argument.
Ask Her's goal is to encourage more women to get involved in Calgary municipal politics. Levis said she believes more diversity in politics generally would help elevate the discourse.
"All politicians should take it upon themselves to ... be respectful and have an actual high-level debate,'' she said.
" Politicians used to talk respectfully to each other and disagree about policy issues, but they wouldn't attack each other."
"This is something that has actually fallen off of the political radar in the past 20 years or so. Politicians used to talk respectfully to each other and disagree about policy issues, but they wouldn't attack each other.''
Levis was commenting on behalf of Ask Her, but she is also president of the National Women's Liberal Commission and worked on former TV journalist Nirmala Naidoo's campaign for a Liberal seat in Calgary in the 2015 federal election.
Levis said remarks targeting a politician's math acumen aren't inherently sexist, but "it has in the past been levied at women quite frequently.''
"Gender is not part of that statement, but it is certainly a disrespectful statement to be making in what we would hope to be a more civil political discussion.''