Thursday, March 22, 2007

I am so sick of Margaret-Ann Blaney and other news...

Spinks has a post up about the most recent shenanigans of Margaret-Ann Blaney and an unfortunate comment by Roly MacIntyre that has allowed her to get out of the controversy over her flawed remarks.

MacIntyre called Blaney "Barbie" during Question Period yesterday which sounds quite vile, but deserves some context. Elizabeth Weir was the one who started calling her Barbie and use to call her it almost everyday and it is now a common nickname for her around the legislature and when Elizabeth used to say it on the record it was never considered sexist. Moreover, Blaney never protested when it was used informally and infact, I believe, referred to herself as such on a few occassions.

This isn't the first time she has taken something completely out of context, feigned being the victim, and tried to make political hay of it.

In 2000, when she was Transportation Minister, there was a big scandal because her riding association sent out a letter saying that if construction companies didn't donate, they wouldn't get road contracts. It was a huge bru-ha-ha and everyone expected she would resign but the Times & Transcript had an editorial cartoon of two construction workers, one with a bulge in his pants, and the caption was "Is that Margaret-Ann Blaney in your pocket or are you happy to see me?" She threw a big spell, cried on the floor of the legislature, and the story became about the cartoon and not her unethical campaign contribution solicitations.

In 2005 when she was Minister of Training & Employment Development, she appointed a bunch of Tory partisans with no qualifications to the Human Rights Commission and I think the Workplace Safety Commission. Mike Murphy went on a lengthy rant about it and listed off a bunch of occupations that would be suitable backgrounds for the appointment and said something along the lines of "we don't need dog catchers, garbage men and weather girls deciding on workplace accidents and discrimination cases". She, a former weather news broadcaster, claimed Murphy was making a personal and sexist attack by criticising the qualifications of female weather broadcasters. The story about the bad appointments went away and "weathergirl" became the story.

Just now, she was taking heat for making a ridiculous accusation that the Minister responsible for the Status of Women was incompetent and should resign because she was allowing the Liberals to bring in policies that would give cash only to full time university students, arguing that it is discriminatory against single mothers who can only go to school part time. So she has seized on the Barbie comment despite the fact that it is widely used as a name for her around the legislature by men and women alike of all parties and by herself.

Enough is enough. She has the distinction of being one of two ministers ever dropped from a Bernard Lord cabinet over the course of more than 7 years. I think you can imagine why.

Still working on finishing up my lengthy ramblings on the New Brunswick budget and will hopefully finish them today as the premier will be wrapping up the budget debate tomorrow. For my thoughts on the federal budget, please see Calgary Grit as we seem to be on the same page.


Anonymous said...

Good blog, as usual very thorough, you really should, well, post it somewhere:)

However, I think there is a point to be made to separate the individuals from the issues. We've had that discussion before, IF a person believes that Volpe wasn't a good finance minister, does that mean that everything he does now is meaningless?

I don't think so. And I think we can all agree that there is a difference between being called a nickname by friends you know, and being called it in the House while a group of Grade Eight students watch. So should she do nothing?

Of course not, the point is that it sets a bad example. If SHE sets a bad example by referring to herself in that way in front of schoolkids then that is equally something that needs to be addressed, but we should note that here its all hearsay.

The other examples you mention say more about the media than it does the party. Politicians 'spin', that's what they do. If the media dropped the issue then thats their fault and in New Brunswick nobody should be surprised. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if Al Hogan called her up and said "ya know, if we run a juicy editorial then you can add some theatrics and the whole thing will go away". If you look at typical Irving coverage of the Lord government that doesn't sound so far fetched.

So the issues aren't just with the individuals involved. I don't think a grade eight class should see their MLA addressing another MLA as Barbie, and I think they are right to demand an apology, which they got. At least from his comments in the paper it appears that she also has a point that there seems to be some sexist proclivities on behalf of the liberals. He even says flat out that it will 'happen again-just hopefully not by me'

I'm no fan of the liberals or conservatives so I'm not defending either. I think women in general have every right to ask these questions and its good at least she is making an issue of it now rather than ignoring it.

As mentioned at spinks site, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If MacIntyre ever referred to himself as 'roly oly poly' or something even worse amongst friends, that would be totally inappropriate to call them that loudly in the legislature, particularly with kids present, who wouldn't understand the context. And people would rightly make an issue of it.

nbpolitico said...

I think you are missing the story line here though. Let's do a play-by-play.

The speaker stood and was saying that question period was over, the Tories grumbled saying there was time for one more question, Blaney the loudest as she was next, and the Speaker allowed another question. This is when Roly said "Go ahead Barbie."

I agree he should not have said that and he realized that as he rose and apologized and asked it be struck from the record before the Tories could ask him to do so. He very honourably realized he was wrong to have said it and apologized.

However, Blaney has gone on a long rant now that an apology is not good enough, etc, etc trying to make a bigger story out of this and to detract from her own shortcomings. She has done this before.

Should the media fall for that sort of trick? No. But it is also wrong for Blaney, a former journalist herself, to take advantage of the need for the media to print juicy stories that will sell papers in order to shield herself from being responsibile for her own actions.

I agree wholeheartedly that Roly was wrong to have said it. However, it was not as malicious as it appears and Blaney and everyone else in that House knows that. Notwithstanding that, he immediately apologized.

She has nothing to be sore about and shouldn't feign outrage.

Anonymous said...

Good points, except for one thing, the comments to the media. He apologized, that was clearly a gut reaction, because read the quotes from the paper. Clearly he's not sorry about it at all, so perhaps she is being a drama queen, but it has served a purpose, namely showing how this minister feels about his off the cuff remark, which he doesn't take seriously at all. THAT is the problem now, the same as when Burke said he was hearing racist comments all over the legislature. The tories then said the minister responsible would work with Burke to address the problem which would include sensitivity training if necessary. How the liberals treat this will no doubt be watched by many women, and its never a bad thing to even 'overblow' political slights. If that's the kind of stuff that comes out in public, then its got to be really ugly in private.

Scott said...

I'm sure the western libertarians and Andrew Coyne conservatives wouldn't agree with you and Dan. But so what, it's not like they're going to vote Libera;l. lol

Spinks said...

This was just plain stupid of Roly and he deserves every bit of flak he gets.

However Blaney shouldn't be let off the hook either. This going after the Liberals as being anti-women because of some criteria to get a university grant? That affects men too Margaret Ann. If you don't like the program, that's fine but making stuff up to try and score points? Low, low, low. Sheesh the Liberals have handed enough legitimate stuff to go after them on in the past few weeks, there's no need to create issues that don't exist.

nbpolitico said...

Scott - they could always vote CHP!

nbpolitico said...

Of course Roly shouldn't have said it but his crime is lack of decorum - something every other member of that place is guilty of - not sexism.

Anonymous said...

The lack of decorum would be if he called her an 'idiot' or some other gender neutral word. You are right about issue that perhaps she is guilty and has fostered the use of the nickname, that's also bad and an issue in itself. But clearly its sexism, can you imagine if Volpe had said something and somebody called him 'barbie'? I know a lot of guys don't like to admit that its a man-woman world, but woman often have different issues, and this plays into them. All those grade eight girls now have the impression that a woman legislator can be called 'barbie', but very rarely are men called by nicknames. THAT is the issue, and its definitely a 'sex' issue-and not the good kind.

I've watched the House, as you have, and I've dumb noises and pounding and cheering but I've never heard anybody called a nickname, let alone a derogatory one, during the sessions. If you have, by all means post them and that would make a good debate on the 'decorum' issue. The more people get involved and demand more of their monkeys, I mean representatives, the better off the political system will be.

nbpolitico said...

Again, you are missing the point. Ms. Blaney is an attractive blonde woman. She takes pride in competing for the title of "sexiest woman in the legislature" in the Telegraph-Journal's annual poll. She takes being compared to the ultimate symbol of an attractive woman as a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Where has she said that? There is a difference between 'tolerating' sexist behaviour and being victimized by it. Notice how the whole conversation about MacIntyre has people saying 'well he got what he deserved now lets talk about her'. That's also quite sexist behaviour, at least to a good many women.

In politics you don't get far by rocking the boat, and of course getting attention works well for politicians. Just the bizarre fact that the Telegraph Journal has a 'poll' on best looking MLA says a lot of disturbing things about media in the province (and maybe politics), and many places have even shut down their 'Miss... anything' pageants. You may not agree with that, that's fine, but to say that its not a sexism issue just because this woman MAY like a nickname is a stretch.

First you have to prove that though, all you've mentioned is hearsay. That she'd pose for a lighthearted photo op means nothing when discussing what she's being called. If she tells people to call her barbie when they are working that's one thing, a thing we don't know, but its different from being called that in open legislature. Notice nobody is even mentioning the liberal behaviour.

That's even a bizarre notion that 'barbie' is being advocated as a compliment. For most of the world its a symbol of female emptyheadedness and unrealistic female body imaging. Let's face it, the woman looks NOTHING like barbie. She may be better than all the uggoes like MacIntyre but I doubt that's EVER meant as a compliment, I've certainly never seen it as such.

nuna d. above said...

Don't you hate it when Conservatives start playing the Liberal whiny victim card?

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in knowing what relationship the Mayor of Dieppe Achille Maillet has with the Minister of Finance Victor Boudreau? It appears that the Minister has given his endorsement to the Mayors Campaign as it appears in the New Paper l'├ętoile of Saturday March 15.