Manitoba’s deputy premier apologized in question period at the legislature on Tuesday after he made a sexist remark during a speech last week, but the Official Opposition is calling for him to take sensitivity training and other steps to minimize harm.
Cliff Cullen, who is the minister for economic development and deputy premier, admitted to using a quote frequently attributed to Winston Churchill in a speech to the province’s business elite, saying, “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”
Nahanni Fontaine, the NDP MLA for St. John’s, called on him during question period Tuesday to apologize for using the quote at the Business Council of Manitoba’s annual general meeting. She also called on him to agree to take sensitivity training.
“We see that misogyny is alive and well in 2022,” Fontaine said.
“This individual is a leader in our province and this kind of leadership is not what we want to show young men moving forward,” she said.
“Words uttered by the deputy premier contribute to a dangerous environment where sexual harassment and violence against women thrive.”
WATCH | ‘Misogyny is alive and well,’ NDP MLA says during question period:
The minister said during question period that he has apologized to the business council and his colleagues.
“Certainly I do want to apologize as well to all Manitobans for my comments. I recognize they were very regrettable. I appreciate the error in judgment and I will learn from my mistakes,” Cullen said.
His office sent an apology to Nation World News on Monday night, after his remarks were first published in the Winnipeg Free Press, saying he “immediately regretted” using the quote.
He did not formally agree to participate in sensitivity or sexual harassment training, as Fontaine requested.
Pallister previously criticized for comments
The NDP MLA said Cullen’s words are part of a “pattern of inappropriate behaviors from men” in the governing Progressive Conservative party, a statement that sparked heckling from that side of the legislature and prompted House Speaker Myrna Driedger to call for order.
In 2017, then premier Brian Pallister faced criticism for beginning a speech by thanking the chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce for dressing up and wearing high heels — a remark he later said was intended to be a joke about his height.
Rochelle Squires, the minister for the status of women, said Cullen’s gaffe is something the government will use as a “teachable moment to look at our unconscious bias … and how that unconscious bias can sometimes filter into language and shape opinions and attitudes.”
She said members of her party will “use this as a teachable moment so that we can all rise above and check our language and use better discourse from here on in.”
Squires says the PC caucus has accepted Cullen’s “sincere, unequivocal and unconditional apology.”