Trudeau incident from MP’s view
It’s the question I keep getting asked: Was I there for “#Elbowgate,” the infamous ruckus that occurred on the floor of the House of Commons on May 18, when the prime minister “got physical” with other members?
Yes, I was there, and this is a good opportunity to share some of the larger context for that event.
On Monday of that week, May 16, the opposition forced a vote on C-7, a government bill which changes the Air Canada Public Participation Act. All opposition parties oppose this bill. Given the Liberal government’s majority, this bill should still have passed easily. However, many Liberal members missed the vote. The vote took place between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., so members should have been at work by then. Still, many Liberal members weren’t there for the vote and the government almost lost. The vote was a tie, and the bill only passed because the Speaker cast the deciding vote in favour.
Rather than learning the correct lesson from this embarrassing moment and ensuring that their members show up for work going forward, the Liberals became furious with the opposition. They cut off all of the usual cooperation that occurs between parties with respect to House of Commons business and scheduling. They also proposed a very draconian motion called Motion 6, which would have allowed the government to completely control scheduling and debate, without any input. These are measures which no previous government even attempted to impose.
The government also pushed ahead with their plan to severely restrict debate on C-14, the government’s euthanasia legislation. There are cases where the government needs to use time allocation; however, the opposition had agreed to extend hours to ensure full consideration of this important and sensitive issue. There was no need to limit debate, when extending hours would have allowed the legislation to pass in the same time frame, with more fulsome debate.
The vote on Wednesday night, when the prime minister “got physical” with other members, was actually a vote on restricting debate on euthanasia. The government’s failure to show up for work on Monday, introduction of Motion 6 on Tuesday, and efforts to again shut down debate on C-14 all provided the context. The use of physical force showed a further disrespect for Parliament.
So how did “Elbowgate” look from my perspective? I have no doubt that the prime minister did not intend to hurt anyone. He did intend, however, to physically force an MP to his seat; and he continued to do so in spite of being told “let go of me.” This wouldn’t be acceptable behavior in any other workplace. I was glad that the prime minister then apologized, and also withdrew Motion 6. The elbow issue brought attention to the other procedural shenanigans going on, as well. I hope the prime minister eventually learned the right lessons from all of this — not just that adults shouldn’t manhandle each other, but also that Parliament itself needs to be treated with respect.
Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-467-4944. His office is located in the Park Place Professional Centre, Unit No. 214. Genuis was first elected in October 2015.
Published: Thursday, June 2, 2016