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Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson crosses the street at a rainbow crosswalk as he leaves after a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Oct. 15, 2020.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Longtime BC Liberal MLA Laurie Throness has quit the election race after he suggested an NDP election promise of free contraception was akin to eugenics and encouraging poor people not to have children.

The comments, made during an all-candidates meeting in the Chilliwack-Kent riding earlier this week, were captured on video and released by the NDP.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson was forced to condemn the comments, the second time this week he’s had to express regrets for something said by his candidates. Mr. Wilkinson said he supports the NDP policy on contraception.

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“What Laurie Throness said was wrong and against my position as leader of this party. I will be making this very clear to Laurie when we next speak," Mr. Wilkinson said in a tweet.

Soon after, the party issued a statement saying Mr. Throness had announced he was stepping down as a candidate in the Oct. 24 provincial election. Mr. Throness’s name will, however, remain on the ballot.

The Liberal statement said Mr. Throness, first elected in 2013, had accepted his comments were “wrong and inappropriate” and that it was clear that he couldn’t continue to be part of the BC Liberal team.

While campaigning Thursday afternoon, Mr. Wilkinson said it proved unnecessary to effectively fire Mr. Throness from the party “because when we spoke he resigned voluntarily.”

Mr. Wilkinson added that, "Things had reached a point with Mr. Throness that his statements were no longer compatible with being a candidate for the BC Liberal party, and when I called him he voluntarily resigned knowing this was the case.”

During the all-candidates meeting, Mr. Throness denounced the New Democrats' plan to provide free contraception, saying the idea “contains a whiff of the old eugenics thing where, you know, poor people shouldn’t have babies.”

He said the idea suggested it wasn’t possible for the poor to have contraception "so we’ll give it to them for free.

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“And maybe they’ll have fewer babies. So there will be fewer poor people in the future. And to me, that contains an odor that I don’t like. And so I don’t really support what the NDP is doing there.”

Speaking for the BC NDP, Selina Robinson had said Thursday that she was “flabbergasted and horrified” at Mr. Throness’s remarks. “He’s from a different century as far as I am concerned,” she said.

BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said Mr. Wilkinson’s approach to the controversy sent the wrong message.

"Only when the party was backed into a corner did they take the weakest of actions: accepting Laurie Throness’s resignation. He should have been expelled from the BC Liberal Party,” she said in statement.

But criticism was also coming from BC Liberal ranks. “The repugnant comments made by Laurie Throness do not match my values,” Todd Stone, running for re-election in Kamloops, said in a tweet. Matt Pitcairn, running in Richmond, tweeted that comparing contraception to eugenics was “contemptible and deeply offensive."

Jas Johal, another Richmond candidate for the BC Liberals, tweeted that the comments were “appalling” and not representative of BC Liberal values. “I support investing in women’s health, including free contraception. I’m proud to have played a role in making sure greater access to IVF was included in our platform.”

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Mr. Wilkinson had previously faced questions about Mr. Throness over suggestions he was a supporter of conversion therapy and for supporting a Christian magazine that runs anti-LGBTQ articles.

Earlier this week, Mr. Wilkinson was forced to address remarks of another of his party’s candidates over a sexual and belittling story she told a retirement roast last month. Jane Thornthwaite, who spoke at a roast for retiring MLA Ralph Sultan, described Bowinn Ma, a New Democrat MLA in another North Shore riding, as a “pretty lady" who flirted with Mr. Sultan at an event.

The virtual roast was held on Sept. 17, but the video was released last weekend. Ms. Thornthwaite has since apologized.

“Her performance and choice of words was so inappropriate that it was abundantly clear by the end of the roast that she made a bit of a fool of herself,” Mr. Wilkinson, who was on the Zoom video of the roast, eventually told reporters.

“Many of us were increasingly embarrassed, to the point of being appalled, but it is hard to stop the train in a social event when you don’t know what the next words will be.”

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