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The New Conservative Playbook: Offend Now, Apologize Later

Despite the denials, Gerry Ritz's sexist and Islamophobic attitudes are part of the party's ideology.

10/05/2017 11:02 EDT | Updated 10/05/2017 11:05 EDT

Only a true coward tries to lift themselves up by pulling down someone else. Gerry Ritz is just such a coward.

Faced with the incredible challenges posed by climate change, and as terrible storms ravaged parts of the southern U.S. and the Caribbean, Ritz chose to tweet out a ridiculously sexist slur targeting Canada's Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna.

In response to a Yahoo Finance story about industrialized countries not yet meeting their Paris climate agreement commitments, the Conservative member from Saskatchewan tweeted, "Has anyone told our climate Barbie!"

Maybe he thought he was being funny. He was not.

Nothing about this is funny, in fact. It's misogynistic and disgusting. He's attempting to diminish the qualifications of Canada's very qualified environment minister, and only ends up revealing his own shortcomings.

It certainly wasn't the first time Ritz was offensive, and sadly wouldn't be the last.

Ritz later deleted the tweet, once it was pointed out to him that it was offensive.

The thing is, it shouldn't need to be pointed out to him or anyone else how or why such comments are offensive. It certainly wasn't the first time Ritz was offensive, and sadly wouldn't be the last.

Back in 2008, Ritz made and then apologized for — an apparent pattern for him — a tasteless comment about a listeriosis outbreak at a sliced meat plant, saying, "This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts." He then "joked" that he hoped a Liberal MP was among those killed by the outbreak.

He was Stephen Harper's agriculture minister at the time.

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Canada's agriculture minister at the time, Gerry Ritz speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 15, 2012.

The best we can say about Ritz's offensiveness is that he is equal opportunity in how he doles it out, but that does not excuse the misogyny that lies behind his "Barbie" comment and his failure to think before he makes belligerent remarks about a woman he works with.

Women understand, because they face it every day. Women in politics are regularly subjected to abusive comments from opponents and anonymous trolls on social media.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has faced sexist and violent threats ever since coming to power. At an oil industry golf tournament last year, for instance, a target was set up with her face on it, then a group of oil executives joyfully drove over it in their golf cart.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has not only faced sexist remarks, but also offensive comments based on her sexuality.

Both Ritz and his party leader Andrew Scheer claim he has learned a lesson from this latest incident.

Then, as if to make it clear to everyone that he is utterly incapable of learning even the simplest of lessons or accept the most basic of human decencies, Ritz doubled down with an ill-informed and Islamophobic comment linking Sharia law to Canada's position at the ongoing NAFTA renegotiations, tweeting, "Is Sharia law an exemption that the Liberals are demanding in NAFTA?"

True to form, he later apologized.

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly told the Huffington Post Canada that the Sharia tweet shows that Ritz had not learned his lesson about being offensive, and she's right.

It would seem to be in his blood, and that's on him. What is equally inexcusable, however, is the elevated position he has held on the Conservative Party caucus for so long, first as a member of cabinet and then a prominent member of its shadow cabinet in Opposition.

Ritz keeps apologizing, and two Conservative leaders in a row have rebuked him. Through it all, however, he remained an influential member of that party's caucus. This shows that despite the denials, his attitudes are part of the Conservatives' ideology.

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

At first, and unbelievably, Scheer resisted calls to condemn Ritz for his comments, even as Ritz himself was apologizing,

Consider the message is Ritz sending to every small child out there playing with a Barbie, making up stories and playing out adventures with their favourite doll.

I would hope that he's telling them that they can grow up to be anything they want, get any education they want and maybe even one day be one of the most influential members of their country's government.

I suspect not, however. Gerry Ritz just doesn't seem to think that way.

Ritz retired from politics this week. Let's hope he takes his backwards ideas with him. They have no place in a modern society, and certainly not in the halls of power.

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