Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tory MP apologizes for rude airport behaviour

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OTTAWA -- A member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government issued an apology to airport and Air Canada staff for her behaviour last week at the Charlottetown airport.

Helena Guergis, Minister of State (Status of Women), arrived late for her flight from Charlottetown to Montreal. She reportedly spoke disparagingly to staff, criticized Prince Edward Island and complained about security measures.

Without going into details, Guergis issued an apology on Thursday.

"On Feb. 19, I was rushing to catch a flight at the Charlottetown Airport and spoke emotionally to some staff members. Regardless of my workload and personal circumstances, it was not appropriate and I apologize to airport and Air Canada staff," Guergis said in a statement.

"It was certainly not my intention to create any additional stress for airport or Air Canada employees who already have a very difficult job."

Details of what allegedly happened were sent to Liberal P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter and copied to media outlets. But the account was penned anonymously.

Easter said in his opinion, there is "no question" the anonymous letter, which includes employee names and a detailed timeline, is accurate.

"I'm not shocked because I've seen this cabinet minister and some others treat people pretty condescending," said Easter.

"The disparaging remarks toward P.E.I. were outrageous, in my point of view."

He added that the Conservative government has in the past shown a "condescending attitude toward Atlantic Canadians."

Guergis's spokesman Martin Paquet would not elaborate on the statement or comment on the anonymous letter.

"We're not going to say anything else," he said.

Guergis was in Prince Edward Island for a funding announcement for local women's groups.

In her statement, Guergis, MP for Simcoe-Grey, went on to describe her feelings for P.E.I.

"My father was born in Summerside and many of my relatives still live on the Island, which I love and visit almost every year. To me, it is a very special place that demonstrates the best Canada has to offer. I wish to express my appreciation to all the hard-working people who make it so welcoming," she said.

Guergis's husband, former member of Parliament Rahim Jaffer, has also been in the news. His court case, involving cocaine possession and drunk driving charges, will be resolved in March, his lawyer said this week.

-- Canwest News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2010 A18

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