Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Question Period in Ottawa is seldom the kind of civilized debate one might expect from their elected officials. But today was one of the worst days in recent memory with one MP (Justin Trudeau) shouting an obscenity at a cabinet minister (Peter Kent) and said cabinet minister issuing the most graceless response he possibly could have when Trudeau later stood to apologize.
(Kent actually demanded Trudeau apologize after Trudeau had, in fact, already apologized. Speaker Andrew Scheer had to tell Kent, uh, you already got your apology.)
Then there was NDP MP Ryan Cleary, who called fisheries minister Keith Ashfield a bully, then stood up and said he was only answering Ashfield (who had asked "Do I look like a bully?") and would say the same thing again if Ashfield asked the same question again.
Speaker Andrew Scheer, who continues to show himself to be a serious upholder of the rules, told Cleary he’d probably find it difficult to be recognized to speak in the house until he actually apologized. So finally Cleary did.
This comes at the end of a session where the speaker has had to warn MPs not to call each other fruits and vegetables after various references were made to potatoes, lemons and blueberries. A session when the speaker ruled as "reprehensible" that the Conservatives were calling into the riding of a Liberal MP telling voters the MP was resigning. A session which, if I remember correctly, was supposed to bring back civility to the house?
Amid the feverish responses to the events of today’s QP, someone tweeted a story by Elizabeth Thompson from ipolitics, who in September found out just exactly what you can and can’t say in the House of Commons, as ruled on by speakers since 1875.
So if you feel the need to toss an insult across the floor, don’t follow Trudeau’s lead and scream "piece of (insert four letter word here that rhymes with pit)". Also avoid "bag of wind", "trickster" and "evil genius."
Instead use "phony", "stinker" or "the pig has nothing left but a squeak."
Or hey, here’s an idea. Let’s not call each other names. At all.
At least Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was able to break the tension. After the back and forth of points of order and apologies, Baird stood himself on a point of order. But it was only to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and peace on earth.
Peace in the House of Commons might have to wait.
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About Mia Rabson
Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.
Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.
She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.
Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.
Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.
In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.
She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.
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