Newly minted Liberal Belinda Stronach was the target of “overt sexism” in the wake of her decision to cross the floor in the House of Commons and deserves an apology from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his colleagues, a group of women Liberals charged Wednesday.
Speaking with reporters in Ottawa, members of the Liberal women's caucus accused Mr. Harper and others of “unacceptable and disrespectful” comments following Ms. Stronach's departure from the party and said both she and the women of Canada are owed an apology.
“I think it's important that we try to raise the level of discourse and debate and they shouldn't be reduced to the kinds of throw away comments that people are clearly using last night and this morning,” Liberal MP Judy Sgro said.
“So I would call on Mr. Harper to apologize to Ms. Stronach and to women of Canada and ask his colleagues to very much do the same so that we can try and restore some level of respect and discussion here in Ottawa.”
Ms. Stronach's decision Tuesday to leave the Conservatives and join the Liberals sent shockwaves across the country.
She cited concern about the Conservatives' decision to align themselves with the separatist Bloc Québécois as a key reason for the move. Her decision came just days before a key budget vote in the House of Commons and cast doubt over the ability of Conservatives and members of the Bloc to topple the government.
The move drew scorn from Conservatives across the country, sparking personal attacks on the MP, who represents the Ontario riding of Newmarket-Aurora.
“She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick, with what she's done here today. She is, at the end of the day, going to paint herself as something of a joke,” Ontario MPP Robert Runciman said of the move.
Tony Abbott, a Conservative member of the Alberta legislature, described Ms. Stronach as a “political harlot” and called the situation as one of “a little rich girl who is basically whoring herself out to the Liberals.”
Mr. Harper, meanwhile, told reporters in Montreal: “I've never really noticed complexity to be Belinda's strong point.”
Headlines around the country also described Ms. Stronach's announcement as a “blonde bombshell.”
At Wednesday's news conference, women members of the Liberal caucus described those kinds of comments as “overtly” sexist and noted that, when former Conservative Scott Brison crossed the floor, he wasn't subject to the same level of personal attack.
“I don't think you'll disagree with me that being called a dipstick and being called a whore is the same thing,” Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte said, when asked by a reporter if friendly comments about Ms. Stronach's shoes were also sexist.
“It's not the same thing and it's not acceptable.”
Meanwhile, Liberal MPs cheered and applauded Ms. Stronach as the former Tory joined them at their weekly caucus.
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan told Stronach that her jump to the governing party “took courage and it took guts.”
With a file from Canadian Press