Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

House Leader sorry for foul language

Gets into verbal dust-up with NDP's Cullen

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OTTAWA -- Government House Leader Peter Van Loan apologized for using off-colour language during a verbal dust-up on the floor of the House of Commons with NDP counterpart Nathan Cullen.

Van Loan acknowledged Thursday he used an inappropriate word during the confrontation.

However, New Democrats weren't satisfied, questioning how Van Loan can remain government House leader after displaying so little regard for proper conduct.

The incident erupted Wednesday after the NDP unsuccessfully attempted to invalidate a vote on the government's omnibus budget bill due to a procedural snafu.

Microphones were shut off during the incident, but videotape shows Van Loan stormed across the centre aisle of the Commons, waving his finger at Cullen and speaking in a heated manner.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Cullen's seat-mate, stood up, whereupon a number of New Democrats surrounded Van Loan and appeared to urge him to leave.

Finally, Defence Minister Peter MacKay rushed over and ushered Van Loan back across the aisle to the government benches.

New Democrats say Van Loan provoked the contretemps, repeatedly dropping the "F-bomb" as he wagged his finger in Cullen's face. They say Mulcair came to Cullen's defence, warning Van Loan to stop threatening his House leader.

Not surprisingly, the Conservatives tell a different story.

Van Loan initially said he merely crossed the floor to talk to Cullen about "the hypocrisy of his complaint" about the budget vote, since the procedural foul-up was the result of a mistake by a New Democrat, deputy Speaker Joe Comartin.

"I was surprised, however, how Mr. Mulcair snapped and lost his temper," Van Loan said in a statement Thursday night.

Conservative MPs also said Mulcair swore at Van Loan.

On Friday, Van Loan acknowledged using "an inappropriate word" during the flare-up.

"I should not have done that and I apologize for that," he told the Commons. "I would expect the opposition House leader to do the same."

Cullen offered no apology but said he'd get back to the Commons with an official response from the NDP after speaking privately with the Speaker, Andrew Scheer.

Scheer, who stood by without intervening during the dust-up, reserved the right to address the matter later.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, one of the MPs who rushed in to urge Van Loan to back off, said Mulcair's response to the unprovoked verbal barrage was "totally appropriate." He said Van Loan is the only one who needs to apologize and maybe even take a "time out."

"I saw (Van Loan) coming across, I could see in his face that he was very upset and in a very aggressive kind of mode and so I've seen that before, in men, and I know it's the best thing to do is to get people away from each other," Dewar said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2012 A18

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