EDMONTON – A somewhat red-faced, novice Tory backbencher says the opposition NDP is “absolutely, totally and completely justified” in its concerns over comments about women he made on his blog.
But Doug Elniski insists he’s not sexist.
“If people take offence to something that I wrote, then clearly I can only say that it behooves me to pay a little more attention to what I write.”
On Monday, NDP member Rachel Notley held a news conference demanding Elniski apologize for postings on his blog and on Twitter on June 13.
The blog posting was framed as a bit of advice for girls that suggested “men are attracted to smiles, so smile and don’t give me any of that equal stuff. If you want equal, it comes in little packages at Starbucks.”
The blog also said there’s “nothing that a man wants less than a woman scowling because he thinks he is going to get shit for something and he has no idea what.”
Notley said the comments suggest a lack of respect for women and a failure to understand women’s struggle for equality.
“What does it say about Alberta when a government MLA is telling young girls that their understanding of equality can be found in a diet sweetener at Starbucks?” Notley asked in a news release.
“Equal is a woman’s right, not a Starbucks sweetener.”
Elniski said both comments were his own versions of material he heard somewhere once in a standup comedy routine.
“In hindsight, it was a stupid, inappropriate thing to put on the blog,” he admitted. “It completely missed the message I was trying to achieve.”
That message, he said, is that people – both men and women – should be friendly and approachable in their dealings with others.
“If you’re approaching somebody that’s scowling and you’re not expecting them to be scowling, you’re immediately on the defensive,” he explained.
“In my world, I think it’s really important that people not be defensive about stuff and that people be approachable.”
He said he has three adult daughters and most of the key workers on his election campaign were women.
“If I were sexist I think I would certainly know about it by now.”
He said he hasn’t heard anything on the matter from Premier Ed Stelmach.
“Nobody’s said anything about being in trouble about it,” he said. “I think that if I denied it or I got argumentative about it, there would be some other issue, but I’m quite apologetic for it.”
The rookie Tory, who was first elected to the legislature last year, had already offered an apology over the weekend on a separate matter.
Members of the city’s gay community were miffed over comments made on Elniski’s Twitter account during a pride parade June 13.
Among the tweets posted were “I am surrounded by bumping and grinding lesbians”, and “that guy has size 14 stilettos.”
Murray Billet, a gay rights activist and a member of the Edmonton Police Commission, said those comments were “embarrassing” and “narrow-minded.”
Elniski said on the weekend that he’s not insensitive to the gay community, adding that his cousin in California is gay.
“The pride parade was an awful lot of fun and there were some people there that were really, really, really into what they do,” he said Monday.
“I really honestly had no malice or anything with respect to what went on at that parade. Those guys get a rough ride all the time.”
Elniski added that he doesn’t think he has sufficient political capital to sway anyone’s opinion.