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Chamber chair laments premier's quips about her high heels

On behalf of all girls, women, and progressive men, Johanna Hurme said, she can't ignore what quickly became a national story. (Wayne Glowacki / Free Press files)</p>

On behalf of all girls, women, and progressive men, Johanna Hurme said, she can't ignore what quickly became a national story. (Wayne Glowacki / Free Press files)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/12/2017 (841 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce chair Johanna Hurme lamented Friday that women in leadership positions are all too familiar with experiencing Premier Brian Pallister's kind of remarks about her high heels Thursday before 1,200 business leaders —- and she demanded such comments be eliminated from society.

Pallister ignored her professional achievements while choosing instead to comment on her shoes and dress, Hurme said in a statement while on a business trip to Calgary.

Those attitudes must be examined and eliminated from both the business world and society in general, she said.

"The unfortunate reality is that I would not be in the position that I am in today, as an architect and as a business owner, should I not have dealt with much worse situations than this in the past," Hurme said.

On behalf of all girls, women, and progressive men, Hurme said, she can't ignore what quickly became a national story. "It warrants to be discussed, highlighted and eliminated from the business setting, and our society in general."

When Pallister phoned her Friday, "I have shared my thoughts on the topic with the premier frankly," she said.

Hurme said Pallister has expressed his regrets. Pallister's office did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday on his phone call and Hurme's statement.

Before beginning his state of the province address during a chamber luncheon Thursday, the premier wished Hurme good luck in her upcoming term as head of the chamber’s board of directors.

But first, he commented on her appearance. "I want to thank Johanna for dressing up. I want to thank her for those heels — I notice they are a foot high," the premier said.

"It is a humbling experience to come to you today — not just in this condition — but having Johanna cut my meat for me meant a lot to me," he said, referring to his inability to use his left arm after he fractured it last month during a hiking accident in New Mexico.

On Thursday night, Pallister issued a statement about his remarks.

"I want to address comments that I made to Johanna Hurme, a woman for whom I have the greatest regard and respect," Pallister said in an email Thursday.

"Given my tall stature, I am particularly aware of my height and often make light-hearted comments about being taller than the people around me. I made an awkward reference to Johanna’s high heels in that context. I can see how they could be easily misconstrued.

"That was never my intention, and I meant no offence of any kind to Johanna."

Friday, New Democrat Nahanni Fontaine continued to chastise Pallister for his handling of the situation.

"I’m disappointed the premier chose not to apologize and show some real regret about the way he handled the situation. Trying to justify his comments by talking about his height is missing the point. He used a public platform to make comments that people around the country are calling inappropriate," Fontaine said.

"Particularly in today’s climate, where men are being called on to treat women with respect in public and in private, this incident and the premier’s statement after the fact make him look out of touch," said Fontaine.

Pallister is tone-deaf to politically-charged times and refuses to recognize when he's wrong, said University of Winnipeg political science professor Shannon Sampert.

It's not only what you say, but how —- and how quickly —- you deal with it, said Sampert.

Sampert said as soon as she heard about Pallister's remarks, she knew what he had meant to do. "It was a silly joke, but poorly-worded and poorly-timed," especially in such "politically-charged times", Sampert said.

"The premier is once again demonstrating he is tone-deaf, in the aftermath," she said. "He seems uncomfortable with recognizing when he's made a mistake."

Pallister should have apologized immediately, Sampert said.

—- with files from Larry Kusch


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Updated on Friday, December 8, 2017 at 4:58 PM CST: Typo fixed.

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