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House debate gets heated

MPs hurl insults and accusations as Speaker struggles to maintain order


Tempers flared in the House of Commons Monday over insults hurled across the aisle that MPs argued went beyond the usual nasty and partisan bounds, and the Speaker struggled to impose order.

The Liberal government House Leader Karina Gould suggested the Conservatives’ vote against a freetrade deal with Ukraine was driven by a “pro-Russian and antiUkraine” wing in its caucus, and accused the Official Opposition of failing to tell Canadians the truth, triggering an uproar on the Conservative bench.

It all came after a Conservative MP painted the NDP as “Hamas supporters” on Thursday — drawing a rebuke from the Speaker’s chair on Monday after yet another raucous question period.

What it showed is that two months after members of Parliament from all parties voted for Liberal Greg Fergus as Speaker in the elected chamber — in part because of his vow to bring more civility and respect back to parliamentary debate — Fergus has effected little change.

The personal attacks on the Commons floor continue. So do deliberate efforts to skirt parliamentary rules against calling one another liars, or referencing an individual’s absence from the chamber. So does the heckling that often drowns out questions or responses from ministers.

Sometimes the messy and heated debates spark immediate contrition.

On Thursday, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen admitted he’d heckled “liar” across the floor at a Conservative MP who was asking a question. “Mr. Speaker, I apologize and I withdraw the remark,” Hussen said as soon as another Conservative complained.

But more often than not, humility is in short supply.

That same day, Miramichi— Grand Lake Conservative MP Jake Stewart denied that he had singled out NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson for supporting a terrorist organization.

Defiant, Stewart said, “My exact words, and I know the NDP is not going to like it, are I said that they were Hamas supporters, and they are.”

On Monday, Fergus rapped Stewart for his comments, saying the language was unparliamentary and unnecessarily provocative.

“Clearly, it is disruptive and disrespectful to associate other members with a terrorist organization,” Fergus said, announcing Stewart would not be recognized to speak in the Commons until he delivered a letter of apology to the House through the Speaker’s office.

Conservatives immediately demanded Fergus apply the same standard and levy the same punishment on Gould.

In question period on Monday, Gould questioned the motivation of Conservatives who voted unanimously against the CanadaUkraine free trade deal. Gould suggested the vote had nothing to do with leader Pierre Poilievre’s claim it would force Ukraine to impose a carbon tax — a claim the Ukrainian government has denied.

“Is it because there is a group of Conservative members of Parliament who are pro-Russia and antiUkraine, and they have to cover for them? Is that what is going on? Is right-wing American extremism going into Canadian politics? I wonder, if the Conservatives had a free vote, who would have voted in support of the agreement,” Gould said.

The Conservative benches responded with indignant shouts. One MP heckled over to the Liberal benches: “That’s what a sinking ship looks like.”

Conservative MP Chris Warkentin deplored Gould’s suggestion that he, as a Ukrainian descendant, or any Conservative would be supportive of “Putin’s illegal, genocidal attack on Ukraine.”

Once again, Fergus promised to review the comments, and to come back later to the Commons with a ruling.





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