Gender and vocabulary are clashing on the floor of the Alberta legislature.
Premier Rachel Notley, one day after accusing a male opponent of mansplaining, is calling out another for “hepeating.”
It came Wednesday during question period after United Conservative member Jason Nixon lauded Notley for taking his party’s advice on the fight to get more pipelines built, but also suggested Notley needs to do more.
Notley rejected that statement, then added: “Can I just introduce a new word into the legislature, the definition of which is as follows: Hepeat, when a person who might be a man repeats what you say and takes credit for it.”
A day earlier in question period, Notley sarcastically thanked Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark for “mansplaining” to her that there are environmental benefits to pipelines.
Clark and other opposition members asked Notley be sanctioned by Speaker Bob Wanner. They suggested the term mansplaining is not only inaccurate but also prejudicial and unparliamentary.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, speaking for the government caucus in the house, defended Notley’s remarks. She said Clark was acting within the dictionary definition of mansplaining, which is to explain something to a woman in a condescending manner.
On Wednesday, Wanner refused to sanction the premier. He said he did not find the comments unparliamentary in the context of the debate, but cautioned all members to watch not only their language but the tone of their questions.
“Like our society has changed, so has this house,” said Wanner. “Tone can be as disrespectful as are certain singular words.”
The male-female dynamic has been a cornerstone issue for Notley’s government, which has gender parity in caucus and cabinet and is working to get more women involved in politics and public life.
The debate also reopened wounds from March when Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, answering detailed questions on the power grid, replied to opposition member Don MacIntyre: “I do not need people from the other side mansplaining to me about electricity.”
McCuaig-Boyd, echoing Wanner’s comments, said the issue goes beyond vocabulary.
“(On) a number of the questions (in the house) it feels like if it’s to one of the women it’s in a condescending manner — and it gets to be annoying, to be honest,” she said.
“Usually I try to ignore it, but once in a while you get tired of the tone.”
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, who was forced to withdraw a remark in March when she called an opponent a “snowflake,” said: “It’s politics and it’s politics in Alberta.
“I’ll put the things that I’ve heckled in the house up against the things that get said to me and to my colleagues in politics over the last 2 1/2 years any day.”
Clark said it’s wrong to attribute motives, such as sexism, to another member of the house that aren’t there and aren’t true.
“I think my record speaks for itself,” he said outside the legislature.
“I don’t think anyone could really legitimately question my views.”
Nixon said language in the house needs to be treated as a tool, not a weapon.
“We need to treat each other with respect,” he said.
“We also have got to make sure that the opposition is comfortable to be able to ask questions. That is their responsibility in this system.”