Just days after the launch of the election campaign in Quebec, personal attacks are already flying. The Liberal candidate for Saint-Laurent, Marwah Rizqy has accused Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader François Legault of being sexist after he made public a series of text messages between his chief of staff and recently nominated Liberal candidate Gertrude Bourdon.
The private messages provided to La Press by the CAQ reveal that Bourdon, the former CEO of the CHU hospital of Québec was in talks with the CAQ about becoming a candidate. She said in the messages that she had “the chance to make history” with the CAQ.
The content of the messages is not disputed, but according to Bourdon and some of her Liberal colleagues, they never should have been released to the public. And Liberal candidate Marwah Rizqy claims that the actions of Legault and his team constitute an act of sexism.
“You can’t spread the private conversations of a woman and hospital manager to the public,” she said at a press conference on Sunday. She continued by comparing Legault to American president Donald Trump. “It sadly reminds me of the politics of our neighbour to the south, Donald Trump.”
Her liberal colleague, candidate for Acadie, Christine St-Pierre backed up these accusations of sexism, saying, “We must be serious and not engage in phony feminism (féminisme de façade).”
François Legault defended himself against the accusations, saying that he leaked the messages in the public interest and that his decision to do so had nothing to do with Bourdon’s sex. “How can you say that because I released Mme Bourdon’s texts that I’m attacking women? What’s the link? If she were a man, I would have done the same thing,” he said.
Liberal leader Philippe Couillard defended his candidates, adopting the approach often taken by Justin Trudeau; that which says that when it comes to accusations of sexism and sexual misconduct, women should always be believed. “I believe that when women feel that; especially women who have been Minister of Womens Affairs, for example, and a young professional woman, if they feel that’s the case, then they have the freedom to say so.”
Does feminism belong to the left?
It’s not a new phenomenon for those on the left to launch attacks against their opponents on the right, branding them as sexist. We see it often in American politics, and the same strategy was employed in the most recent election campaign in Ontario.
What’s noteworthy in the case of François Legault is that the majority of his CAQ candidates (63 of 123) are women, and that those candidates support him in the face of these attacks from the left. The CAQ candidate for Laval-les-Rapides, Christine Mitton, defended her leader and the actions of her party. “We released a text message,” she said, “I think that’s fair, and the public should know that.”
The left is prone to believing that feminism belongs exclusively to them and that conservatives don’t have the right to identify as such. A debate on this subject took place earlier this year in the House of Commons when some male Liberal MPs took issue with some female Conservative MPs self-identifying as feminists because of their views on abortion.
Although Philippe Couillard said at the beginning of the campaign that he wanted this to be a campaign of ideas and to avoid personal attacks, it seems that he doesn’t hold his candidates to the same standards.
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