Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fast and Furious 7: the Parliament Hill edition

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OTTAWA -- To hear it told in the House of Commons, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's minor run-in with the RCMP on Parliament Hill on Thursday could have been a scene from the latest Fast and Furious flick.

The Opposition leader apologized for what he termed a "misunderstanding" after breezing through a security checkpoint, where a new guard didn't recognize him, and being followed to his parking spot by the Mounties.

No warnings or citations were issued and Mulcair insisted his exchanges with police officers during the incident were entirely "respectful."

But that's pretty much where respectful ended: Conservatives in the House were quick not only to mock the NDP leader, but to use the incident as a political hammer.

Heritage Minister James Moore, standing in for the travelling Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the incident demonstrates Mulcair "does not have the temperament to be the prime minister of Canada."

Statements by Conservative MPs and answers during the House of Commons question period were sprinkled with references to Mulcair and allusions to his alleged temper.

Mulcair was absent from question period.

"I would like to answer the NDP leader's real question from today," said Moore, who seemed to delight in recounting the incident to a raucous Commons. "He asked the question: 'Do you know who I am?'

"Turns out we know who the NDP leader is. He ran through five stop signs, as reported. He refused to pull over to the RCMP when they asked him to pull over. And then when he was finally confronted by an RCMP officer, he said to her: 'Do you know who I am?"'

International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino, a retired police officer, called the incident an insult to police.

However, in an interview, the NDP leader refuted the Conservatives' version of the events, which he deemed a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the Senate expense scandal that has rocked Parliament throughout the spring.

"Basically, what happened this morning is I did what I do every single morning when I come to Parliament," Mulcair said. "I go to the same gate, I wave to the people who are on duty and then I just drive slowly, being careful, up to my (Centre Block) office."

Thursday morning, however, a new guard was on duty at the checkpoint and she didn't recognize Mulcair.

"I waved. I thought I got a wave back but I didn't so we wound up having the slowest promenade in front of the building. I went around the back (followed by) another officer who'd been dispatched to see who it was. The other officer was able to verify my identity and that was it."

A while later, Mulcair said he went back to the checkpoint to clear up the misunderstanding.

"When I went back and talked to her, she was apologetic and I apologized myself for the misunderstanding. I didn't want the misunderstanding to last. She felt bad, I felt bad, we shook hands and that was the end of it."

As for running multiple stop signs, he said: "That's not true at all."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2013 A19

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