CEO's 'poorly chosen words' spark outrage
Michael Geoghegan described NDP MLA Jenny Kwan as 'pretty but
Nov. 25, 2003
said he is considering a wrongful dismissal lawsuit after being
fired Monday as president and CEO of the B.C. Construction Association.
insisted he was terminated because of a left-wing conspiracy on
the BCCA board of directors, not because he appeared on a radio
talk show and described NDP MLA Jenny Kwan as a pretty but stupid
politician who has only lasted in politics because she's a woman
I was fired for expressing my political beliefs," he told
The Vancouver Sun.
"I chose a very poor way of expressing my view that Jenny
Kwan is a political lightweight ... There are no grounds for firing
made the comments Thursday during a debate with New Democrat David
Schreck on a Victoria radio talk show where he is a regular political
commentator who represents the B.C. Liberal viewpoint.
On the air
Geoghegan said, "The fact that she's been as successful as
she has in her career has everything to do with her gender and
ethnicity. If she'd been a white male she would have been an also-ran
a long time ago." Schreck then called the comments racist
apologized for his "very poorly chosen" words later
that day. In discussions with the BCCA, he said he offered to
be suspended for two weeks with his pay donated to a charity of
BCCA board of directors met in a teleconference Friday, and Geoghegan
said he was given a choice between resigning and being fired.
the board let him go because four members are New Democrat supporters.
Furthermore, Geoghegan said he appeared on the CFAX talk show
not as a representative of the BCCA, but as a B.C. Liberal supporter
and that the association knew before it hired him that he was
a regular guest on the highly-charged political show.
was definitely a political agenda here to silence me," he
said Monday in a phone interview from his Victoria home on Monday.
he is not retracting the apology, Geoghegan claims he has received
several e-mails from prominent NDPers who, while surprised that
he would say the things he did, agree with him.
insists he is not a racist or a sexist and, while with the BCCA,
has worked on campaigns to attract women and skilled immigrants
to the construction industry in the province.
association's chairman said Monday the comments were simply too
"I think he felt sorry and he did apologize for his remarks
both to Jenny Kwan and to the BCCA board," said Bill Gyles.
"The board felt that we couldn't carry on with him as our
president and CEO."
represents about 1,700 construction sector companies in the province.
In a prepared release, the association's vice-president tried
to distance the organization even further.
B.C. Construction Association and its members believe in equal
opportunity for all, regardless of gender or ethnic background,"
said Abigail Fulton. "And we certainly support the role of
women in government."
As for Kwan,
she said Monday she accepts Geoghegan's apology and is "very
gratified" by the swift response of organizations such as
the Canadian Jewish Congress and the BCCA in condemning his statements.
She declined to comment on whether Geoghegan should have been
a decision of the B.C. Construction Association and their determination,"
she said. "It's not my judgement to make whether or not the
BCCA acted appropriately."
As for Geoghegan's
comments to The Sun on Monday, Kwan noted: "It appears to
me every time Mr. Geoghegan opens his mouth he gets into trouble."
hired by the association about six months ago, Geoghegan was a
self-employed government and media relations consultant. He is
a member of the federal and provincial Liberal parties and is
a former political official under the previous NDP government.
Vancouver Sun 2003