News / Canada

Conservative MP provokes outrage after calling minister Catherine McKenna 'climate Barbie'

Gerry Ritz stirred backlash from prominent Canadians like Penny Oleksiak who were angered by his social media smear of the environment minister.

Conservative MP Gerry Ritz in the House of Commons.

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press File

Conservative MP Gerry Ritz in the House of Commons.

OTTAWA—Conservative MP Gerry Ritz stirred outrage Wednesday after demeaning Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as a “climate Barbie.”

In a reply to two other Twitter users, Ritz tweeted, “Has anyone told our climate Barbie!”

The condemnations came fast and furious from prominent Canadians as well as everyday citizens angered by his social media smear.

Comedian Mark Critch said on Twitter, “@GerryRitzMP gives crackers a bad name. Female politicians are not Barbies, Gerry. And I’m pretty sure @cathmckenna could kick your ass.”

Olympic medal holder Penny Oleksiak said on Twitter Wednesday, “Please treat people kindly. This world has way too much hate and there’s no reason to add to it.”

McKenna herself fired back a pointed response.

“Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister? We need more women in politics. Your sexist comments won’t stop us,” said McKenna, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, suggested that Ritz’s comment only highlights the sexist attitudes that McKenna has been forced to deal with since taking on the senior cabinet post.

“‘Climate Barbie’ wasn’t a Ritz brain-freeze; it’s been a repellent, sexist campaign against @cathmckenna from Day 1,” Butts said.

Within hours, Ritz (Battlefords, Lloydminster) tweeted an apology for his choice of words. His original tweet has since been deleted.

“I apologize for the use of ‘Barbie,’ it is not reflective of the role the minister plays,” Ritz said on Twitter.

The MP’s comment set back efforts by fledging Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to put his own brand on the party as being inclusive.

“Sorry is not enough: @GerryRitzMP reminds us why paleo Tories are unfit to govern after slurring @CathMcKenna,” Twitter user Pearl Eliadis said.

Ritz had previously announced his decision to resign from politics. It’s not the first time the Saskatchewan MP has put his foot in his mouth; in 2008, he joked about the listeriosis outbreak that killed some 20 people, saying that the political damage was like “like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts.”

Files from Canadian Press

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