VIA chairman calls Olympic medallist “poor, single woman”

Note to VIA Rail Chairman Jean Pelletier: it’s bad optics to speak this way about a two-time gold medallist like Myriam Bédard, even if she’s making allegations about the federal sponsorship scandal that impugn your corporation. It will backfire on you, big time.

Pelletier, formerly Jean Chrétien’s chief of staff, told La Presse that Bédard was asked to leave because she was insubordinate and didn’t fit in with the team.
“We told her that if she wasn’t happy, maybe she would have been more comfortable at an advertising agency,” said Pelletier.
“I don’t want to be mean, but this is a poor, single woman. She’s feeling the tension of being a single mother who has financial responsibilities. She’s essentially looking for pity.”
Bédard countered that Pelletier’s comments were “very low level” and that she didn’t expect a president to talk that way about single parents.

Neither did I. It was undignified for Pelletier to respond that way, and draws him into a scandal that otherwise had not touched him.

Update 5:12 PM: VIA issued two statements today, which I received as a subscriber to their mailing list. They’re also available on their media page.

The first is an apology from Pelletier:

During a media interview yesterday, I made certain comments concerning Ms. Myriam Bédard that I now realize were inappropriate. I regret making those comments and want to apologize sincerely to Ms. Bédard for any embarrassment or hurt I may have caused her.

The second statement tries to square the circle by defending VIA’s position against her, even while apologizing to her, viz., no we didn’t ask her to leave. Curiouser and curiouser.

Update 6:20 PM: Globe and Mail coverage.

Update 2/28 8:12 AM: More Globe coverage, more comprehensive this time.