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NDP MLA apologizes after 'male friend' comment in question period

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The Manitoba legislative chamber, where question period is held.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The Manitoba legislative chamber, where question period is held. Photo Store

A rookie NDP MLA found himself in hot water when he insinuated during Thursday’s question period that a Progressive Conservative MLA is gay.

And while the entire episode ate up about 10 minutes in the legislature, outside the house no one was talking afterwards.

It was another example of the short tempers and frayed nerves of many MLAs as the legislature now heads into its 71st day of the summer sitting next week as the Opposition Tories continue to fight against the PST increase and delay other government bills. The record is 85 days set in 1986.

It began innocuously enough when near the end of question period St. Norbert MLA Dave Gaudreau rose to ask a friendly question to Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux about a funding announcement Lemieux made earlier in the day to cultural groups in Manitoba.

But Gaudreau veered from the script when he said he had visited several Folklorama pavilions over the past two weeks and had happened to see Ron Schuler with "his male friend" at one of them.

Lemieux answered the question and QP continued on a Tory question on Bipole III — until Gaudreau stood up on a point of order.

"I said some words — regrettable — in my question to the minister about the member for St. Paul (Mr. Schuler) and his male friend," Gaudreau said. "I would like to retract that from the record. I didn’t mean it in any other way than I saw him last night at the event with, along with some other ministers here, and I’d like to retract those words, Mr. Speaker."

Privately, the Tories grumbled Gaudreau repeated his attack on Schuler.

Tory House Leader Kelvin Goertzen was quick on his feet:

"I understand the member for St. Norbert has stood up and he’s tried to bring forward an apology, but I would suggest that he and other members, and maybe all members of this house, need to be more cautious before they actually bring forward those words," Goertzen said. "So I’ve listened to his comments and I’ve heard his apology, but we’re getting very, very close, Mr. Speaker, to saying things that are harmful to all of us as legislators, and this has to stop."

NDP House Leader Jennifer Howard said she respected Gaudreau’s apology.

"I heard members on the opposite side use some very alarming language to members of my party," Howard added. "And so, you know, I have a responsibility to be careful in the way that I speak in this legislature, but we all do. And if we want the tone to be better in the house, this is where it starts, Mr. Speaker. It starts with the words that we choose to use with each other, whether those words are on the record or not.’

Speaker Daryl Reid said he was happy with Gaudreau’s apology.

"I believe very strongly in a respectful workplace. I do my darnedest to make sure that we follow the rules and practice and procedures... and we conduct ourselves with dignity and that we have the proper decorum in this chamber," he said.

About a month ago Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister found himself in a similar position when Howard accused him of calling an unknown NDP MLA a "retard" during a vote to adjourn debate on a Tory cyberbullying bill.

Pallister denied he said the word and pointed the finger at the NDP for smearing him with another "false allegation."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 7:45 PM CDT: Corrects typo.

8:29 PM: Tweaks text.

8:40 PM: Added MLA's first name.

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