Kinew says emphasis, Teitsma says offensive


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The leader of the Manitoba NDP struck a nerve during question period Thursday, when he asked about the “buh-buh-billion-dollar buh-buh-budget” for a department led by a minister who, at times, has struggled with his speech.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/05/2022 (208 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The leader of the Manitoba NDP struck a nerve during question period Thursday, when he asked about the “buh-buh-billion-dollar buh-buh-budget” for a department led by a minister who, at times, has struggled with his speech.

When NDP Leader Wab Kinew was asked to apologize in the house, he said he wasn’t trying to mock anyone.

“When I repeated the opening syllable of the word ‘billion’ and ‘budget,’ it was to emphasize and draw attention to the point,” Kinew said, sitting across the aisle from Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES NDP Leader Wab Kinew: “I sincerely apologize if my comment was misinterpreted."

The repetition, however, riled Piwniuk’s fellow Progressive Conservative MLA, James Teitsma (Radisson). He heckled Kinew for making fun of people with speech impediments, then bit his tongue until the end of question period, when he rose on a point of order to ask Kinew to apologize.

“I found the way the member asked his question to be derogatory, disrespectful and beneath the level of decorum we expect in this chamber,” said Teitsma, asking the NDP leader to say he’s sorry.

“I sincerely apologize if my comment was misinterpreted,” Kinew responded.

Speaker Myrna Driedger accepted his apology; Teitsma did not.

Kinew had asked why the province appears to have under-spent last year’s infrastructure budget by $354 million. Premier Heather Stefanson responded by saying her government is now spending $1.5 billion on infrastructure over the next three years.

Wab Kinews’ comments start at 1:01 in the video

“He essentially said that he was just trying to emphasize the words. I’ve never hear him emphasize words that way before,” Teitsma said, adding he felt the Opposition leader used a stutter in a question about Piwniuk’s department.

“For me, it was offensive and there was really no need to do that. He could’ve said exactly the point he was trying to make without it,” said the Tory backbencher.

“Then he apologized if I was offended, rather than (saying) sorry for causing offence himself. I would call that a non-apology.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Doyle Piwniuk, transportation and infrastructure minister.

Teitsma said he spoke to Piwniuk after question period.

“He appreciated me calling that out,” said the MLA, who noted Piwniuk has spoken up about his issues with speech.

“He would say that he stuttered as a child, but now he’s able to speak quite well — and certainly he’s performing well as a minister and he’s been the deputy speaker.”

He said Piwniuk didn’t pick up right away on the exchange between the NDP leader and premier, and didn’t appear bothered by it. Piwniuk’s press secretary did not respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

“For me, it’s not just about him,” Teitsma said. “You shouldn’t be mocking… to me, that’s off-limits. I don’t care if the person is thick-skinned or not.”

When asked for comment, Kinew was not available. His press secretary said he apologized in the house and made clear his intentions.

In a scrum with reporters after question period, NDP MLA Adrien Sala defended his party leader’s response.

“I think Wab’s words spoke for themselves,” said the member for St. James. “He certainly didn’t intend offence there. He apologized, and that’s that.”

James Teitsma, MLA for Radisson (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)
Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.


Updated on Thursday, May 12, 2022 10:31 PM CDT: Adds video

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